Fianna Fáil TD for Cavan and Monaghan, Brendan Smith has welcomed a suite of new Covid-19 measures to support the early learning and childcare sector.
The measures will include: a €10 million Grant Programme for Improved Ventilation and Other Measures to Reduce Transmission; Student Temporary Employment and an Updated Covid-19 Resource Pack.
Deputy Brendan Smith commented, “These new supports are at the core of vital work to ensure the well-being and health of our children. This grant programme will improve ventilation and make these critical services safer for children, their families and the early learning and childcare workforce, who have performed brilliantly during the extremely difficult challenges of the Covid-19 restrictions.”
The Cavan and Monaghan TD added: “The temporary employment arrangements for students also announced today will help colleges facilitate students of early learning and care education programmes to work in settings until the end of January 2022. This will help to relieve current staff supply pressures owing to the pandemic.
“This important information along with the new digital pack of resources on responding to Covid-19 is being issued to early learning and childcare services nationally”.
€10 million Grant Programme for Improved Ventilation and Other Measures to Reduce Transmission
The objective of this once-off exceptional Grant Programme is to support services to improve ventilation, given the need to mitigate risks associated with Covid-19 in line with the current National Public Health guidance. HEPA filters will be among eligible items under this Programme. The Grant Programme will also enable providers to introduce other measures to reduce Covid-19 transmission.
Student Temporary Employment Arrangements
On a temporary basis Further and Higher Education Institutions will, where possible, facilitate the temporary release of students (until end January 2022) who are undertaking relevant studies and who meet eligibility criteria to work in early learning and childcare settings.
To enable students to work temporarily in the sector to assist with the Covid-19 response, on a temporary basis, the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth has introduced an accelerated process for assessment of eligibility to work in the sector for students who are currently enrolled on a recognised level 6, 7 or 8 course and have completed the equivalent of a level 5 award. Details will be available at https://www.gov.ie/en/service/000073-recognition-of-an-early-years-qualification/
In addition, a facility for advertising temporary posts will be available on www.myccc.ie, week commencing 13 December. Early learning and childcare services that wish to advertise a temporary post on this site should contact their local City / County Childcare Committee.
Updated Covid-19 Resource Pack
An updated Covid-19 Resource Pack will be disseminated to support early learning and childcare providers, including childminders to raise awareness among staff and parents of the current public health guidance. It will also signpost services to additional Covid-19 supports available to the sector.
Today’s announcement follows the recent announcement to restore the enhanced rate of the Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme (EWSS) until the end of January. Since August 2020, registered early learning and childcare employers have been eligible to access the EWSS without having to demonstrate the 30% reduction in turnover required of other employers.
EWSS at enhanced rates amounts to an investment of €34 million per month in the sector and is estimated to cover, on average, 80% staff costs and 50% operating costs.
Further measures, including the introduction of an antigen testing programme for early learning and childcare services (similar to the programme in schools) will be announced in the coming days.