State-funded ECCE pre-school programme to remain closed for a week, other childcare to open Monday

Creches and childminders can continue to operate as planned.

THE STATE-FUNDED pre-school programme in which 100,000 children are enrolled will delay its resumption until 11 January.

In a statement this afternoon, Children’s Minister Roderic O’Gorman said that the decision was taken to align the ECCE programme with the delayed reopening of primary schools and secondary schools.

O’Gorman also said, however, that creches and childminders can continue to operate as planned from this Monday 4 January. 

In a statement, the department said:

On 31 December, Minister O’Gorman met with the Early Learning and Childcare Covid-19 Advisory Group to discuss this matter. Representatives from the Advisory Group shared their concerns about the full resumption of early learning and childcare from early January. While accepting the need to maintain early learning and childcare for priority groups, the Advisory Group asked that the pre-school programme (ECCE) would be aligned with the reopening of schools on 11 January.

“The Minister has agreed with his Cabinet colleagues that the pre-school programme can resume at a slightly later date of 11 January 2021.”

By postponing the return of these children to the pre-school programme, social mixing will be reduced, which will help to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the post-Christmas period. The pre-school programme will now resume on 11 January, in line with the reopening of schools.

The ECCE pre-school programme is delivered by over 4,000 services nationwide and the department has said that the service providers will continue to receive funding for the week next week when they remain closed

The ECCE Scheme provides early childhood care and education for children of pre-school age. The scheme is offered in early years settings such as pre-schools, Montessoris, creches and playgroups.  

Under full Level 5 restrictions, childcare can continue to operate to support parents attending work. 

The minister has asked these these services to reopen as planned from 4 January to provide childcare, particularly to priority groups.

The department is pledging support to these services “on how to prioritise demand for places in their services, if they are short staffed and unable to reopen with a full staff complement for the week of 4 to 8 January.”

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