Childcare deal for 5,000 health worker families

Special childcare arrangements will cover up to 5,000 families with essential health workers with parents paying €90 a week for services.
Childcare deal for 5,000 health worker families
File photo.

Special childcare arrangements will cover up to 5,000 families with essential health workers with parents paying €90 a week for services.

Minister for Children Katherine Zappone told the Dail that childcare workers would be asked to volunteer for the scheme, which will begin in late May.

Those workers will then get €15 an hour and the total cost of the scheme will be €4.7m a week.

However, little detail was revealed about the general reopening of the childcare sector, which will begin in late July.

Ms Zappone said:

Consideration needs to be given to how children are prioritised for returning to childcare and this will be done in consultation with the sector.

“It is my hope that significant additional investment will be provided to the sector as it re-opens. It seems to me that this is the primary requirement to ensure that the capacity will be sufficient for Irish families as the pandemic recedes.”

Nonetheless, the clarity around childcare services for essential health workers will provide some relief to those in the sector, many who have struggled to find care for their children.

Ms Zappone explained:

"From May 18th, my Department will oversee the provision of childcare in the homes of essential healthcare workers. This is part of the first phase of easing the COVID 19 restrictions.

"Tomorrow we will be inviting registered childcare services to participate in this much needed measure. I will also outline how families can access the scheme.

"Participation will be voluntary. Many services have expressed an interest in supporting this initiative and being part of Ireland’s Call during these challenging times.

"We have been planning this for a number of weeks and have listened to suggestions from the childcare sector. Yesterday we had an extensive question and answer session with the Early Years Forum.

“In the coming days, eligible health workers will be advised to contact a Pobal parent support centre to request the service and to indicate their childcare needs and preferences.

It is initially intended to run the scheme for a period of four weeks. There will be a review after two weeks and also at the end of the four week period.

Nonetheless, there still is no clarity around what will happen to services and the subsidies they may get or not as the different exit strategies of the lockdown go ahead.

Ms Zappone added:

“It is inevitable that Childcare Services will not open at full capacity. Fewer children attending a childcare service will increase the costs of the provision of childcare for these children.

“As outlined previously, 70% of the costs of provision of childcare are related to pay costs. I don’t anticipate that Services will be in a position to absorb all of these costs.

“Parents will also be unable to pay the associated increase. I will be inputting into future government decisions to make the case for the need for State subsidies to compensate.”

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