Sinn Féin Children and Youth affairs spokesperson Kathleen Funchion has said that while crèche closures are necessary to contain the spread of Covid-19, assurances need to be made by the Department of Children and Youth Affairs to staff, parents and providers that measures are being put in place immediately, so that staff and families are not placed in serious financial difficulty as a result of nationwide closures.
Deputy Funchion said: "The decision made at State level to close all crèches and schools is to be welcomed. It is an essential step in trying to halt the spread of Covid-19 and is absolutely necessary for the safety and well being of all children and staff.
"The Early Years Forum is meeting this evening with DCYA officials to discuss the effects this decision will have on the Early Years sector as a whole and the families with children attending services.
"I urge the Department of Children and Youth Affairs to now increase the Sustainability Fund for the sector to further support services who may be impacted negatively by having to close their services. I would also ask that the department review the case management process and to expedite that process in order to release funding to services urgently. This fund should be used to ensure that services are sustainable and that staff have a viable wage.
The case management process must also ensure that measures taken will have no negative impact on quality, such as by reducing staff numbers to an absolute minimum for example.
"Finally, I would ask the department to take into account the difficulties that crèche and school closures will present to working parents who are now without childcare until the end of March. Many will be out of pocket for monthly fees that are already paid.
"Given the financial stress this will cause families, I implore the government to consider a subsidy to be paid to working parents, such as a doubling of child benefit payment that could contribute towards the following months’ crèche fees for example.
"There will be many lone parents who will not have a partner at home to rely on for assistance if they are expected to work from home. This cohort of working parents must also be factored into the departments’ emergency plans.
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