Updated HPSC guidance 26/11/2021
Important message from Early Years Communications Team
We are writing to you today regarding the attached Memo from the HSE, which notes some updates on advice for close contacts, update on the revised HPSC guidance for ELC/SAC settings and advice on Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV).
Updated Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HSPC) guidance for ELC/SAC settings
It important to continue observing the guidelines that remain in place such as play pods and individuals (children and adults) not attending if they are showing symptoms of respiratory infection.
Providers for both Early Learning and Care and School Age Childcare settings should familiarise themselves with the updated guidance and apply it in a way that meets the needs of the child.
The updated guidance document can be found here: Infection Prevention and Control guidance for Early Learning and Care and School Age Childcare settings during the COVID-19 Pandemic V1.9 10.11.2021
The Department Covid-19 checklist to remind ELC / SAC providers of the key steps to take if there is a suspected or a confirmed case of Covid-19 in their services has also been updated. While the checklist is designed to be high level, useful links to further and more detailed information are also included. The checklist is available here
We would like to remind you of the rules on force majeure.
Force Majeure in ELC and SAC services is a mechanism under which service providers can be given permission to close and continue to receive funding under ECCE, the NCS or the Saver schemes. Force majeure applies to the closure of the full service.
Providers can apply for force majeure funding to Pobal. The forms are available on PIP and Hive. Hive: https://earlyyearshive.ncs.gov.ie/ForceMajeureApplicationForm
Force majeure applications are considered on a case by case basis, and are granted when a service closes due to circumstances outside of its control for example, power blackout, local flooding or a regional or national severe weather warning under which people are asked not to travel.
Force majeure may also be given for health related issues. If a service is directed to close by Public Health, due to Covid-19 or other reasons, that service will receive force majeure funding for the period they have been directed to close. A service must provide evidence of a direction from Public Health when applying to Pobal for force majeure funding.
Where a service has an outbreak of Covid-19 but is not directed to close by Public Health there is no automatic right to force majeure funding. However if a service is unable to operate due to a reduction of staff numbers due to Covid-19, whether staff are Covid-19 positive or are awaiting testing, the service can apply to Pobal for force majeure funding. A service must provide evidence of why staff cannot attend work, such as correspondence from the HSE, when applying to Pobal for force majeure funding. Such correspondence must be held by the service for potential verification of these claims.
If a service is required to close a pod or a room, force majeure does not apply. In this case services can continue to receive Department scheme funding for children who are absent for up to 4 weeks. A force majeure application to Pobal is not required in these circumstances. There is provision for children to be absent for more than 4 weeks in exceptional circumstances. Providers should apply to their CCC in the first instance if children are absent for more than 4 weeks.
Public health advice is that it is safe for ELC/SAC services to operate. Therefore, force majeure permission will not be given where a service decides to close due to Covid-19 concerns, whether by decision of a Board of Management or by decision by an owner/operator, and where there is no direction to close by public health.