In a letter to Minister O’Gorman last night (Tuesday), Seas Suas has sought clarity on three core and fundamental questions by this Friday, 22 January.
The representative organisation said that the sector is an essential service and despite lockdowns, providers continue to operate safely and provide education and care to children.
Seas Suas Chair: “The clock is ticking and with every day that passes, we lose more time that could be spent planning and ensuring we can continue to provide services beyond 31 January, 8 working days from now. We risk service provision with a last minute to midnight decision.”
With Ireland’s lockdown restrictions up for review on 31 January, less than two weeks from today, the representative body for independent early years’ service providers, Seas Suas has called on the Government to provide clarity and take an immediate decision on the reopening of childcare, avoiding the ‘short termism’ and last minute approach currently being taken.
Seas Suas suggest that decision makers should utilise data and predictive modelling to establish the likely scenario with regard Covid-19 on 31 January. This would help to inform decision making now and avoid waiting for the last minute to take decisions. Providers require time to plan and parents need time to make alternative childcare arrangements, if necessary.
In a letter to the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth, Roderic O’Gorman last night (Tuesday), Seas Suas has sought a response to three core and fundamental questions by this Friday 22 January including:
1. REOPENING: clarity on the plan for childcare post 31 January - will the childcare sector reopen for all children or continue to provide education and care for the children of essential and frontline workers only?
2. PUBLIC HEALTH CRITERIA: what public health criteria must apply and in what scenario (in terms of Covid-19 case numbers) will childcare settings be permitted to reopen for all?
3. FUNDING: if the sector is not reopened for all children on 31 January, can the Department for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth (DCEDIY), and the Department of Finance, provide detail of what funding measures will be in place from 1 February to support providers who are operating at reduced capacity and occupancy for the children of essential and frontline workers only.
Seas Suas has also issued correspondence to the Minister for Finance seeking clarity and to request his Department’s involvement in planning for the longer-term sustainability of childcare.
Commenting, Chair of Seas Suas and Managing Director of Grovelands Childcare, Regina Bushell said that until answers to these questions are known, the sector is “in limbo”.
“We are operating with reduced staff numbers, in line with reduced demand, and because we have no clarity, we cannot plan our staff requirement for the next month and even months. Our parents and families are also in limbo. Without clarity on a plan, they cannot make alternative childcare arrangements - parents who are currently juggling childcare, education, home schooling and their own full-time jobs.
“Equally, we are operating with reduced occupancy, while we continue to meet our operational and fixed costs and we cannot keep the show going on this basis beyond 31 January.