ACP statement on extended closure for ecce services and re-opening of all other services
ACP wish to thank Minister O’Gorman, and cabinet colleagues, for listening to and responding positively to some of our concerns about the full resumption of Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC) and School Age Childcare (SAC) services from early January.
We regret that our calls for the reversal of the decision to reopen the ECEC and SAC sectors on January 4th have not been fully met but we welcome the decision to postpone the resumption of the pre-school ECCE programme until January 11th, in line with the re-opening of schools. This decision will help to reduce social interactions, helping to prevent the spread of Covid-19 in the post-Christmas period. It will also underline, for parents, the importance of only sending children to ECEC and SAC settings if they have absolutely no alternative, while working in essential frontline jobs.
Where services are re-opening on Jan 4th to support vulnerable children and parents working in essential frontline services, we acknowledge the concerns of staff and providers and, we urge managers to assess the risks for children and staff in terms of reopening and ask settings to strictly adhere to NPHET advice and guidelines. Reduced capacity will help to mitigate some of the risk to those in the ECEC and SAC sectors who are required to work so that essential frontline workers, including our creche, school-age childcare and childminder colleagues, can continue to provide their essential services for the public.
We have written to Minister O’Gorman asking him to restrict the use of creche, school-age childcare and childminder services to vulnerable children and children with parents in essential frontline services only e.g. nurses, doctors, social workers, grocery retail staff, cleaners, bus drivers, refuse collectors, etc. With the ECCE scheme closed, and only restricted categories using the service, it will be a safer environment for staff and children. Indeed, some services may not need to re-open at all or may not need all staff to come to work. We have also requested that our colleagues in creches, school-age childcare and childminding settings are prioritised for vaccinations due to their essential nature.
This is not ideal, and will leave many concerned for their health and the health of their loved ones, but the reason that our profession is essential during this public health crisis is because we can provide support for vulnerable children and we can facilitate workers to go to work so that they can keep our people safe and healthy. In an ideal world we would all be able to stay in our safe bubble at home but unfortunately this is not the case for essential frontline workers.
Where you have health concerns, make sure that you discuss them with your manager and work together to find an agreed solution e.g. wearing masks during Level 5. It is important that we listen to each other’s concerns and needs. This is an anxious time and we need to work together to get through it. We ask providers to re-engage with the Return to Work Safety Protocol to ensure that they are providing the safest environment possible for staff involved in providing this essential service for parents and children.
We join with Minister O’Gorman in asking parents/guardians to help us protect all members of our ECEC and SAC communities by keeping children home unless absolutely necessary. If you have no alternative but to use ECEC and SAC services, please adhere to public health guidelines so that you are doing your part to protect all in our community. Early Years and School Age Childcare professionals are doing their best to keep your children safe and well, please support them with this.