Employers For Childcare welcomes the opening of the COVID-19 childcare sector support scheme

In April, the Ministers for Education and Health announced a £12 million package of measures to support the childcare sector during the Covid-19 pandemic. The intention of the scheme is to ensure that key worker parents (as per the Department of Health definition) and vulnerable children can access the childcare they need during the COVID-19 pandemic. The measures have also been designed to support the sustainability of providers who have had to close as a result of the pandemic, so that they can reopen in the future, and continue to provide their services which are a vital part of our economic infrastructure.

We welcome today’s further announcement that the support scheme is now open for applications from eligible childcare providers. The childcare sector is needed now – to facilitate key worker parents to access the childcare they need to go to work – and it will be at the forefront of economic recovery efforts, as well as supporting children who will have missed so much early education this year. This support package will play an important role in safeguarding the future of this vital sector, which is so essential in the pathway to recovery from Covid-19.

Any provider who is entitled to apply for support should have received an application form by now, issued from the Business Services Organisation (BSO). All completed application forms should be returned to BSO who are making every effort to process these, and issue payments, as quickly as possible.

The announcement emphasises that, where childcare is provided, it must be done in a way which is as safe as possible in public health terms. Any provider who is planning to stay open or wishes to re-open must contact their local Health and Social Care Trust Early Years Team urgently. These Teams are available to provide any advice needed, including advice on safe care.

The full announcement is available on the Department of Education website.

Making an application

If you haven’t already done so, we would encourage all childcare providers to review the application carefully, and gather together the information needed. A high number of applications is expected, and while BSO will process applications as quickly as possible, it is important that forms are completed fully and accurately in order to avoid delay in processing payments.

A number of organisations are available to provide support with the completion of application forms, with contact details available on the Family Support NI website. The organisation you should contact will depend on your setting and the nature of your application.

Our role providing advice and guidance

We are delighted that our Family Benefits Advice Service has been engaged by the Departments to provide advice and guidance on the Approved Home Childcarer Scheme for parents, daycare providers and Approved Home Childcarers. As well as assisting settings in the completion of application forms, our team of trained Family Benefits Advisors can advise on a wide range of issues relating to the scheme, including queries from parents about how to access support, Approved Home Childcarers seeking advice on its implementation, and childcare providers with queries around insurance, employment terms and conditions and the matching of staff with families.

To contact the Family Benefits Advice Service in relation to the Approved Home Childcarer scheme, or for any other queries relating to childcare or financial support, call 028 9267 8200 or email hello@employersforchildcare.org