Childcare and COVID-19

Introduction

On 12 March 2020, all schools, childcare and educational facilities closed due to the COVID-19 public health emergency.

Childcare facilities reopened on 29 June 2020 for certain children. Childcare subsidies and childcare fees also restarted. However, fees should stay at their pre-COVID-19 rates, if your childcare provider is availing of the special supports to help them reopen. For more details - see ‘Reopening of childcare facilities’ below.

If you left work to care for a child because of school or childcare closures and your employer is no longer paying you, you can apply for the COVID-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment. Contact the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection using MyWelfare or call 1890 800 024 to find out if you can qualify.

You can also read about support services for families during COVID-19.

Reopening of childcare facilities

On 29 June 2020, childcare services reopened for the following children:

  • Children of health and social care workers, other frontline workers
  • Children of people who need access to childcare in order to return to work
  • Vulnerable children sponsored under the National Childcare Scheme (NCS) (for example, children who are homeless and Tusla referrals) and other Department of Children and Youth Affairs (DCYA) schemes
  • Children with disabilities who had attended early learning and care, including those preparing to start school in September
  • Children registered in childcare services on 12 March 2020, whose parents continue to need childcare for employment or training purposes and who were assured that they would retain their place through conditions attached to the DCYA Temporary Wage Subsidy Childcare Scheme.

If capacity issues emerge, priority should be given to the children of essential or frontline workers.

Childcare universal and targeted subsidies and childcare fees have also restarted.

Childcare providers that have reopened can get additional supports which include a Reopening Support Payment and Revenue’s Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme (TWSS). If a childcare provider avails of these supports they must keep fees at their pre-COVID-19 rates. These supports will run from 29 June 2020 to 23 August 2020. Many of these supports are also available to childcare providers that intend to reopen after 23 August 2020. DCYA provides information about the financial supports for childcare providers.

It was announced under the July Jobs Stimulus that the package of supports to childcare providers is extended to 31 December 2020. DCYA have asked childcare services availing of these supports not to increase fees to parents.

You can find out more about the guidance and support to reopen childcare services.

The Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) scheme will reopen on 24 August 2020.

Subsidised childcare schemes

From 29 June 2020, the early learning and school age childcare programme restarted. These include:

The TEC Schemes are:

If you were on the CCS programme or one of the TEC schemes before the closures you will keep your place on the scheme, but you must continue to meet the eligibility criteria and return in (or before) September 2020.

You will have to re-register with your childcare provider for your childcare place when the 2020-2021 programme or scheme opens.

If you are no longer eligible for the CCS programme or TEC scheme, you may be eligible for the National Childcare Scheme (NCS).

If you are having difficulty with your childcare provider or finding a childcare place you can contact the local County Childcare Committee.

Changes in childcare settings

Play pods

Children are grouped in ‘play pods’ which allows them to learn and play in small groups.

The play pods –sometimes called bubbles - allows positive interactions between your child and caregivers, limits the number of people your child has contact with and helps with contact tracing.

Masks

Children do not have to wear masks or be cared for by adults wearing masks. Adults in childcare settings only wear them when interacting with other parents or staff.

If your child becomes unwell

Your child should not attend childcare if your child or a member of your household has symptoms of COVID-19. You should keep your child at home and contact your GP.

If your child displays symptoms of COVID-19, your childcare provider will arrange for them to be collected and will advise you to contact your GP.

Drop off and pick up

Drop offs and collections are organised to maintain distance between adults and between children from different play-pods.

When you drop off and collect your child from childcare, you should keep physical distance from other parents and staff and between children in different ‘play pods’.

If you must enter the childcare service, such as to settle your child into a new place, you should keep physical distance with other adults where possible. You can use a mask if it is not possible to keep your distance from other adults.

Other changes and further information

Your child must not bring toys from home, but can bring a comfort toy to help them fall asleep. If possible you should bring a duplicate comfort toy to the childcare setting.

You can find more information about returning to childcare and preparing your child for pre-school on the Let’s get ready website.

Page edited: 27 July 2020