We are writing to you today regarding the return of all children to services from Monday 29 March and to advise you of a revised version of the HSE Infection Prevention and Control Guidance for ELC and SAC settings which was published today. Please see the following from Early Years Division.
Return of all children to Early Learning and Care (ELC), School-Age Childcare (SAC), including childminders on Monday, 29 March 2021
As you are aware, from 29 March, all Early Learning and Care (ELC), School-Age Childcare (SAC) services, including childminders, can operate for all children without restriction.
Children who have been away from settings for a period of time will now return to familiar surroundings, re-join friends, re-establish routines and reap the benefits of engaging in play and learning. The full reopening of the sector will also support families and working parents in particular.
We would like to acknowledge and thank you again, for all your hard work since the onset of Covid-19 and, in particular since January, whether your service was open and providing services to vulnerable children and the children of essential workers; has reopened to ECCE children in March; or was closed but you and your staff continued to engage remotely with the children who usually attend.
DCEDIY funding arrangements return to normal from 29 March – with funding provided under the ECCE Programme, the NCS and other legacy schemes.
Services also continue to be eligible for the Revenue-operated Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme (EWSS), which has been extended until 30 June 2021.
It is also open for services to apply for the Covid-19 Impact Support Scheme. This new strand of sustainability funding is available on a rolling basis throughout 2021 for eligible ELC and SAC services that require further financial assistance in addition to current support measures available. Please contact your CCC for information and advice on this new scheme.
We would like to take this opportunity to remind services that, while no environment is without risk in relation to Covid-19, your continued effective adherence to the HSE’s Infection Prevention and Control guidance for ELC and SAC services has helped to minimise the risk of spread of infection within services and has ensured that the number of positive cases is low compared to other sectors of the economy.
We would also like to advise you that the HSE has today, 25 March, issued a revised version of the public health guidance for services. The revised Guidance can be found at:
The changes relate to:
- Face coverings (p.11): A reminder that staff in ELC and SAC services must wear face coverings when it is not possible to keep a 2m distance from other adults. Staff are also advised to wear a face covering when in close proximity to children if doing so does not pose a barrier to early learning and care. The Guidance specifically notes that It is expected that use of face coverings will generally be practical when attending to school age children. This aligns with the approach in schools.
The assessment of whether the wearing of a face covering is a barrier to early learning and care ((for pre-school children) will need to be made on a case by case basis. However, it will be impacted by factors such as the ages of the children, the types of interaction between the staff member and the child, whether the interaction is happening inside or outside, etc. For example, opportunities to wear face coverings without impacting on early learning and care may be more frequent when working with older (e.g. ECCE children) but less frequent with toddlers or babies.
- Ventilation: The Guidance emphasises the importance of ventilation (see pages 10, 11, 14 and 16).
- Other: The Guidance also includes the most up to date information on spread of the virus (p.4), sampling and testing (p.5), vaccine roll out (p.6), periods of self-isolation and restricted movements (p.18) and a reminder to staff to minimise contacts inside and outside of work (p.21).
Reopening Guidance videos
Please find below YouTube playlist links to the recently produced reopening guidance videos issued by the Department available in both English and Irish.
- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SM-DPDIzJzY&list=PLjDfnAn8SMMWvIsTGuCGt649uxMUWJ2ZQ (ENGLISH)
- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1YewSYhUPgg&list=PLjDfnAn8SMMXoPMf3r3v9K0N9uexwHOyg (IRISH)
Providers and their staff are advised to read the revised Guidance closely and update policies and procedures as required.
We wish you well on Monday morning.
DCEDIY Early Years Communications Team