Ireland

Parents polled by Government on ‘practical reality’ of reopening creches

Results of survey will inform phased reopening of childcare facilities from June 29th

Creches and preschools for all children are to due to reopen from July 20th. Photograph: Lars Baron/Getty

Creches and preschools for all children are to due to reopen from July 20th. Photograph: Lars Baron/Getty

Parents are being asked this weekend whether they intend to send their young children back to creche over the summer as part of a Government-ordered poll on the “practical reality”of reopening childcare facilities.

The Department of Children and Youth Affairs (DCYA) has confirmed it has hired pollsters Ipsos MRBI to survey a sample 500 households with children under 15 around the country.

The results of the survey, which are expected mid-week, will inform the Government’s phased reopening of creches, which is due to begin on June 29th for children of essential workers only.

Creches, childminders and preschools for children of all other workers are to due to reopen on “a gradually increasing phased basis” from July 20th.

The department also issued surveys to creches countrywide on Friday seeking details of their ability to take in children again once the coronavirus lockdown restrictions are further eased.

A key issue is the “possible capacity” of creches to take in children given the “likelihood of reduced adult-child ratios and existing challenges with recruitment and retention”, according to a department spokeswoman.

At the moment, child/carer ratios are strictly governed by regulations.

Sector consultation

Minister for Children Katherine Zappone’s department is also planning to seek submissions from the wider childcare sector and parents early next week to offer “a final opportunity to share their views, experiences, practices and ideas” for getting children back to creches.

“DCYA is currently working with the sector to answer the many questions that exist,” a spokeswoman for the minister said.

“This is complex work and must balance a number of important issues.”

These issues include how to reduce the threat of Covid-19 given the difficulty of maintaining social distancing among young children and those caring for them, demand for childcare as the economy reopens and keeping the childcare sector afloat without parents having to pay higher fees.

“The minister hopes that every early education and childcare service around the country is currently considering how it can be part of helping Ireland get back to work, and how it can support children from June 29 in the very difficult circumstances they have experienced in recent months,” her spokeswoman said.

On Wednesday, Ms Zappone suggested childcare may operate using a “pod” system as it reopens, with small groups of children being looked after by the same carers in the same room, using the same toys every time they are there.

Speaking in the Dáil, she said children “will play together and will be encouraged to stay together in this little pod. They will be encouraged to use outdoor space as much as possible”.

Under sixes would struggle with the concept of social distancing, making implementation difficult if not impossible, she pointed out.

Ms Zappone said Ireland would be “referring to the Norwegian model, among others” as she considered ways to limit interaction between parents and guardians, including children being collected from cars outside creches, as well as extended or staggered opening hours.

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