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Education Minister Peter Weir has today announced the publication of a Childcare Sector Recovery plan.

The plan, published by the Executive, aims to restore the childcare sector to pre-Covid-19 capacity levels as quickly as possible. The plan will ensure that parents can access childcare, as and when they need it, over the next few months.

Welcoming the publication of the plan, Education Minister Peter Weir said: “I very much welcome today’s announcement which will enable the childcare sector to keep pace with decisions by the Executive to re-open the economy. It will provide working parents with sufficient time to organise childcare in advance of returning to work.

“One of the key elements is that there will be no restrictions in terms of the minimum or maximum numbers of children for which day care and school-age childcare settings can provide care.

“As schools begin to reopen, it will be important to ensure that there is alignment between school restart plans and childcare provision so that the impact on working parents is kept to a minimum. If a child is not at school, then the availability of childcare may be essential.”

Importantly under the plan, the definition of keyworker will no longer apply for access to childcare. This will assist a return to full capacity by enabling more providers to reopen and more parents to access registered and informal childcare.

The Minister continued: “As we move towards a new normal, we must recognise that the provision of childcare is of the utmost importance to enable parents to get back out into the working environment.

“Childcare providers must therefore be able to build capacity to care for as many children as they are safely able to do. Therefore, from 29 June 2020, childminders will be able to provide childcare to four families, in their homes at one time on a part-time or full-time basis. This will increase to five families in August.

“Childcare providers will be required to comply with guidance issued by the Department of Health to support and promote safe practice to minimise the transmission of the Covid-19 virus.”

Further details in the plan outline that between 1 July and 31 August 2020, indemnification letters will be issued to childcare providers, who are providing childcare services, against Covid-19 related incidents, when confirmation relating to re-opening is received from a Health and Social Care Trust.

In addition, the current financial support scheme (the Covid-19 Childcare Sector Support Scheme) will come to an end on 30 June 2020.