Update from DCYA on Covid-19 PHRA Process for ELC & SAC Services
Dear Early Years Provider,
The Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth, Roderick O Gorman, yesterday met with the Director General of the HSE, Mr Paul Reid, to discuss the Covid-19 pandemic and how it is affecting the early learning and care (ELC) and school-age childcare (SAC) sector.
The meeting was very positive, and the Minister and Director General expressed their shared commitment to supporting the ELC and SAC sector and ensuring the needs of children, families and staff are met. The Minister emphasised the importance of continuing to align the public health response for the ELC and SAC sector with that in place for schools. He also raised the concerns that many of you have shared with him in relation to timelines for testing and tracing and potential impact on staffing. You may be aware of recent media reports regarding the HSE’s Public Health Risk Assessment (PHRA) process for educational settings and how this HSE system is receiving additional support through redeployment of staff from the Department of Education. We would like to take this opportunity to clarify that the PHRA and the testing and assessment pathways for schools, which have been in place since August, also apply to ELC and SAC services. This means that where an individual with Covid-19 is determined to have been in a school, ELC or SAC setting during the infectious period, the HSE will conduct a risk assessment of the setting and, where deemed necessary, may decide to send a play-pod, classroom or whole setting for testing. In such cases the testing process will be expedited. Recent enhancements to the system also apply to both sectors.
The Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth is urgently considering what additional resources it may provide to the HSE to assist with this important task, given the importance of minimising any potential delays in the PHRA process. Finally, it is important to note that since services reopened in June, only 6% have experienced one or more confirmed cases of Covid-19 in their setting. This relatively low figure is a positive reflection of both the hard work of services on the ground and the effectiveness of the public health guidance in place.
The Minister and the Department would like to thank service owners and practitioners for the great efforts you have made to date in keeping services open and operating those services safely. We will continue to support you in these efforts in any way we can. Regards, Early Years Division, DCYA