Following the joint announcement by Education Minister Peter Weir and Health Minister Robin Swann of a £12m package of measures to support the childcare sector, the scheme is now open to eligible childcare providers.
Speaking about the opening of the scheme, Health Minister Robin Swann said: “The Covid-19 Childcare Support Scheme announced by myself and Education Minister, Peter Weir, is now open for applications. Any provider entitled to apply to the scheme should have received an application form at this stage.
"Application forms issued from the Business Services Organisation (BSO) should be returned to BSO, which will make every effort to process them and make payments as quickly as possible.”
Application forms for closed and open daycare and school aged childcare settings issued on Wednesday, May 6. Applications for childminders and the Bespoke Approved Home Childcare Scheme issued on Thursday, May 7.
Education Minister Peter Weir said: “We established the Covid-19 Childcare Support Scheme to enable childcare providers to meet the needs of key workers and vulnerable children at this very difficult time and to provide support to daycare and school age childcare settings, which are not able to remain open. I know that it is essential that we get financial support to settings and to childminders without further delay and we are committed to doing that.”
Minister Swann went on to say: “This will ensure that childcare can be provided to key workers when and where it is needed. It will also be a support mechanism for vulnerable families. However, as stressed before, where childcare is provided, it must be done in a way which is as safe as possible in public health terms.
"That is why any provider planning to stay open or reopen needs to contact their local Health and Social Care Trust Early Years Team urgently. Trust Early Years Teams are available to provide any advice needed, including advice on safe care.
“A high number of applications are expected and BSO will aim to process these as quickly as possible. It is important that application forms are completed accurately to reduce the risk of delays in any payments due.”
A number of organisations are available to provide support with the completion of application forms. The contact details for the Northern Ireland Childminding Association, the Early Years Organisation, Playboard, Employers for Childcare and other sources of information and guidance are available on the Family Support NI website.