Employers For Childcare welcomes the extension of the Covid-19 Childcare Temporary Closure Support Fund

Education Minister Peter Weir has today announced that the Covid-19 Childcare Temporary Closure Fund is now being extended, with funding provided for the period 1 January to 31 March 2021. The Fund, which previously provided support for providers forced to close temporarily due to a Covid-related incident between September to December 2020, will re-open for applications on Wednesday 24 February 2021.

The scheme will be open to registered childcare providers who have had to temporarily close – either fully, or a pod in a group setting – due to:

  • a Covid-19 positive case of either a member of staff, a childminder or a child in the setting; or
  • an inability to comply with staff to child ratios, as set out in the Department of Health Minimum Standards for Childminding and Day Care for Children Under Age 12, due to staff being required to self-isolate as advised by the Public Health Agency.

An important condition of the funding is that parents have not been charged during the temporary closure period, reflecting that one of the objectives of the fund is also to support parents.

Making this announcement, Education Minister Peter Weir thanked the childcare sector for its continued dedication to maintaining services during these challenging times, and said: “This is the latest of a number of financial support schemes designed and implemented specifically for the childcare sector during the Covid-19 pandemic. This reflects the very important role that childcare providers continue to play in ensuring the availability of childcare provision and supporting economic recovery, while at the same time ensuring parents can access safe and responsive care.”

Who is eligible?

The fund will help registered childcare providers including childminders, daycare providers, school age childcare settings (SAC), crèches and playgroups who have been operational during the period 1 January 2021 to 31 March 2021, but have been forced to close temporarily – either fully or, in the case of a group setting, an entire pod. Providers either must not have charged parents for the period of closure, or have refunded fees. Providers must also be in full adherence to the latest Department of Health Covid-19 guidance.

Funding will be allocated to eligible providers based on the type and/or size of provision and the length of period of closure.

Full eligibility details are available at: https://www.early-years.org/csf-covid-related-closure-fund

How can childcare providers apply?

The Fund is being administered by Early Years – the organisation for young children, on behalf of the Department of Education.

Applications can be made through a user-friendly online application system. Any provider that has informed their Health and Social Care Trust of a closure should receive a link to apply by 24 February 2021. If you do not receive a link by then, please email covidrelatedclosures@early-years.org

Applications must be submitted by Friday 2 April 2021 at 4:00PM. No late applications will be accepted.

Note, if a period of closure extends beyond 31 March, but commenced before that date, an application should still be submitted by the deadline above, projecting the date of re-opening, and payments can be made for up to 10 days.

Full details of the application process are available at: : https://www.early-years.org/csf-covid-related-closure-fund

Welcome support for the sector at this time

This is welcome support for the sector at a critical time, and follows on from approximately £20.5 million of emergency funding that has been provided to the childcare sector, to the end of December 2020, to alleviate the pressures they have faced as a result of the pandemic.

Employers For Childcare’s Head of Charity Services, Aoife Hamilton, welcomed this announcement of the extension: “This is a positive development, at a time when the childcare sector continues to face ongoing challenges created by Covid-19. Also welcome is the confirmation that Minister Weir hopes to announce further funding to assist with ongoing sustainability issues. This support will be vital to the longer-term recovery and survival of our childcare sector, and we would urge details to be announced as soon as possible. At the same time, we reiterate calls for the entire childcare workforce to be prioritised for Covid-19 vaccination, reflecting the essential and close contact nature of provision.”

Referring to the Covid-19 Childcare Temporary Closure Support Fund, Aoife continued: “We would encourage all eligible childcare providers who have temporarily closed for a period of time, due to a case of Covid-19, to read the guidance carefully and submit their application as soon as possible.”

We continue to work closely with the Departments to ensure that the childcare sector is properly supported at this difficult time.

Further information

Any queries relating to this Fund can be submitted to the Childcare Support Fund Team at Early Years by emailing: covidrelatedclosures@early-years.org