Children to join 'play-pods' when childcare resumes at end of Juneby Michael Staines
Children will be grouped into ‘play-pods’ when childcare services resume at the end of June.
The roadmap for reopening originally said childcare would only be made available for essential workers when it resumes on June 29th; however, that has now been expanded to include other groups.
These include parents who can’t return to work without childcare, children who are vulnerable and children with disabilities.
Frontline workers will be given priority.
Guidelines on how to reopen were sent to childcare providers this week.
Speaking outside Government Buildings this afternoon, the Children’s Minister Katherine Zappone said it remains to be seen how many services will resume.
“It is not possible to say how many childcare services will reopen in July or August and so therefore what the capacity is,” she said. “Many of them are usually closed during those summer months.”
“But childcare providers asked that I would publish the public health guidance four weeks in advance of opening so they could get ready.”
She said the play-pods should be as small as possible – but for children older than two, there could be up to 12 per group.
“In terms of the public health advice, there is no evidence base effectively on which to define a maximum pod size,” she said.
“At the same time, there is the encouragement that they are as small as is practicable in that context and to follow the ratios that are a part of the regulations.
“So, you ask the question for two-year-olds we could probably have two to 12.”
She said some transmission of the virus was “inevitable” but the guidelines should reduce the risk as far as possible.
She admitted it may be a difficult transition for some children and parents; however, every effort is being made to make children as comfortable as possible.
“It will be different from what they left in March but having their friends around them once again, we believe, will make it less strange,” she said.
“I think parents will feel more comfortable placing their children in the care of practitioners and professionals they know and have come to trust.
“With all the stress that has been associated with the restrictions, it is important that children are returning to the context where they feel comfortable and they know they can be happy.”
Children under six will not be asked to socially distance, while those older will be asked to keep a distance and avoid physical contact where possible.