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Minister Rabbitte to establish Working Group on Autism Innovation Strategy

Minister Rabbitte to establish Working Group on Autism Innovation StrategyDCEDIY logo

From Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth

Minister of State with responsibility for Disability, Anne Rabbitte TD, has today, World Autism Awareness Day, announced her intention to establish a Working Group to develop an Autism Innovation Strategy.

Minister Rabbitte made the announcement at AsIAm’s ‘What autism acceptance means to me’ online event on Friday (2nd April 2021).

Minister Rabbitte commented:

“I am very proud to mark World Autism Awareness Day by announcing that it is my intention to develop an Autism Innovation Strategy. The focus of the strategy in the short term will be to deliver real and tangible solutions to the challenges, needs and experiences of people with autism.

“This targeted approach will pinpoint priorities in a number of key areas that I, as Minister, will aim to address in the next three or four years. A clear pathway of supports need to be developed and I hope this can be achieved through the Autism Innovation Strategy.

“The Autism Innovation Strategy will inevitably be cross departmental in nature as autism is not just an issue that needs to be addressed with health supports but there needs to be a more holistic approach taken. There is an amazing opportunity for Ireland to become a leader across the EU and indeed the world on how to achieve a more autism-friendly country."

Minister Rabbitte concluded:

“It is my intention to set up an Autism Innovation Strategy Working Group, which will seek to develop this Strategy. I am committed to championing this in government and will chair this Working Group once established. I look forward to engaging with stakeholders in the months ahead."

Important information on NCS, ECCE, CCSP Saver attendance rules

Attendance variation rule extension

In July 2020, the Department introduced added flexibility on attendance rules under NCS. This change allows for 2 hours variation in attendance against registration per week without triggering a report, for non-NCS a 30 minute variance tolerance per day per child is allowed, these temporary measures were introduced in response to the exceptional environment caused by COVID-19.

Pobal updates

This measure has been further extended and will now last until 30 April 2021.

You can find links to Attendance Trackers to support your attendance keeping for NCS on the Attendance Rules page of the Early Years Hive. This page also contains the rules around child absence and under attendance under the scheme for your benefit.


NCS, ECCE, CCSP attendance rules

Following the full resumption, without restriction, of all Early Learning and Care (ELC), School-Age Childcare (SAC) services from 29 March, attendance rules will revert as per the NCS policy guidelines and the ECCE and CCSP Saver programme rules.

If you are required to close a play-pod on foot of public health advice, the attendance rules will be suspended for the children affected for the duration of the closure, it should be noted on the on-site attendance record that the play-pod is closed for the reason outlined.

Entire service closures will continue to be covered by Force Majeure rules.


Early Years Hive Scheduled Maintenance

Dear Service Provider,

Early Years Hive

The Early Years Hive and the National Childcare Scheme website will be unavailable tomorrow, 1 April at 5pm for a maximum of 2 hours due to scheduled maintenance.

After this time, you will need to refresh your web browser to access the portal again.

We apologise for any inconvenience this may cause and thank you for your cooperation.

Thank you,
Early Years Team

Continuing professional development resources for practitioners

Continuing professional development resources for practitionersFirst 5 logo

Professional development for practitioners

A key objective of First 5 is to improve Continuing Professional Development (CPD) for all those who work in early learning and care and school-age childcare settings.

During the Covid -19 emergency period many practitioners will have an opportunity to undertake online training or development activities to help them meet the demands of their professional roles.

Choosing a course

You can choose any number of free online courses and resources from the list  that may suit your particular professional development needs. 

Longer online CPD courses

Sensory processing e-learning programme (SPEL)
This e-learning programme will help develop your knowledge of sensory processing in order to enhance the participation and engagement of all children in the pre-school learning environment.

You can register for SPEL by clicking here.

Three SPEL Q&A webinars are now available on the departments Youtube channel, if you seek further learning. The videos feature Fiona O’Farrell, the subject matter expert who designed the SPEL course. Click one of the links below to view:

Sensory Processing Difficulties Q&A (Part 1)

Sensory Processing Difficulties Q&A (Part 2) Sensory Processing Difficulties Q&A (Part 3)

Minister O’Gorman welcomes the Family Leave and Miscellaneous Provisions Bill 2021 passing all stages

Minister O’Gorman welcomes the Family Leave and Miscellaneous Provisions Bill 2021 passing all stages

From Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth

New provisions under the Family Leave and Miscellaneous Provisions Bill 2021 include:DCEDIY 29 03 2020

  • An additional three weeks of paid Parents' Leave and Benefit to each parent to be taken in the first two years after the birth or adoptive placement of a child.
  • All adopting couples will be able to choose which parent may avail of adoptive leave, including male same-sex couples who were previously precluded due to an anomaly in legislation.
  • Paternity Leave and Benefit will be made available to the parent who is not availing of adoptive leave.

Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth, Roderic O’Gorman, T.D., today welcomed the passing of all stages of the Family Leave and Miscellaneous Provisions Bill 2021.

Once the Bill is enacted, working parents will be entitled to an additional three weeks of paid Parent’s Leave for each parent, and the period in which the leave can be taken will be extended to the first two years after the birth or adoptive placement of a child. The extension will allow parents to spend time with their child in the earliest years. It is non-transferrable between parents to ensure that both parents are encouraged and supported in taking time out from work to spend time with their child.

Adoptive parents will also be provided with greater flexibility to decide which parent will avail of adoptive leave and benefit, with paternity leave and benefit available to the parent not availing of adoptive leave. Fulfilling an important commitment in the Programme for Government, the Bill addresses access to adoptive leave and benefit by male same-sex couples, a provision that is of great significance for couples seeking to adopt.

The additional 3 weeks of parent’s leave is available to employees and the self-employed in respect of new babies born or children adopted after 1 November 2019. The associated benefit will be paid at the same rate as maternity, paternity and adoptive benefits.

Enactment of the Bill will take place shortly after the Bill is signed into law by the President.

Highlighting the Government’s continued commitment to supporting working parents and promoting greater work-life balance, Minister O’Gorman said:

We want to support parents in taking time away from work and having quality time with their children during those precious first two years, so I’m delighted to see this legislation pass through the Oireachtas.

“COVID-19 has had a serious impact across society and working parents, especially those who have had children during the pandemic, often without the support of family and friends. The extension to parent’s leave and benefit is intended to provide them with an additional period of leave to spend with their child.

“An important facet of parent’s leave is to encourage the sharing of childcare and I hope that this additional period of leave will support and encourage fathers in taking a more prominent role in the care of their young child.”

The Bill also provides for an increase in the number of ordinary members of the Board of the Child and Family Agency, from seven members to nine, in order to support the State in meeting its obligations to the safety, protection, wellbeing and resilience of children, families and communities in Ireland.

During the progress of the Bill through the Oireachtas, Government amendments were added in relation to the operation of personal injury guidelines adopted by the Judicial Council.

Talking Buddies - Looking to work with preschools in Offaly

Talking Buddies Project 29 03 2021

Talking Buddies is a project that is government funded under Slaintecare. It is a team of Speech and Language Therapists from Laois and Offaly. The aim of the
project is to promote and foster language development in communities in Laois and Offaly for children aged 0-5.

They are looking for 10 Preschools from Offaly who wish to avail of

  • Free Hanen Teacher Talk Training and follow up coaching
  • Free Talking Buddies Reading Programme training and mentoring
  • Lots of other support

If you are interested in getting involved please email them on This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. before 31st March

Return of all children to ELC, SAC, including childminders on Monday, 29 March 2021

Dear Provider,

We are writing to you today regarding the return of all children to services from Monday 29 March and to advise you of a revised version of the HSE Infection Prevention and Control Guidance  for ELC and SAC settings which was published today. Please see the following from Early Years Division.

Return of all children to Early Learning and Care (ELC), SchooDCEDIY logol-Age Childcare (SAC), including childminders on Monday, 29 March 2021

As you are aware, from 29 March, all Early Learning and Care (ELC), School-Age Childcare (SAC) services, including childminders, can operate for all children without restriction.

Children who have been away from settings for a period of time will now return to familiar surroundings, re-join friends, re-establish routines and reap the benefits of engaging in play and learning.  The full reopening of the sector will also support families and working parents in particular.

We would like to acknowledge and thank you again, for all your hard work since the onset of Covid-19 and, in particular since January, whether your service was open and providing services to vulnerable children and the children of essential workers;  has reopened to ECCE children in March; or was closed but you and your staff continued to engage remotely with the children who usually attend.  


DCEDIY funding arrangements return to normal from 29 March - with funding provided under the ECCE Programme, the NCS and other legacy schemes.

Services also continue to be eligible for the Revenue-operated Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme (EWSS), which has been extended until 30 June 2021. 

It is also open for services to apply for the Covid-19 Impact Support Scheme. This new strand of sustainability funding is available on a rolling basis throughout 2021 for eligible ELC and SAC services that require further financial assistance in addition to current support measures available. Please contact your CCC for information and advice on this new scheme.

Public Health

We would like to take this opportunity to remind services that, while no environment is without risk in relation to Covid-19, your continued effective adherence to the HSE’s Infection Prevention and Control guidance for ELC and SAC services has helped to minimise the risk of spread of infection within services and has ensured that the number of positive cases is low compared to other sectors of the economy.

We would also like to advise you that the HSE has today, 25 March, issued a revised version of the public health guidance for services. The revised Guidance can be found at

The changes relate to:

  • Face coverings (p.11): A reminder that staff in ELC and SAC services must wear face coverings when it is not possible to keep a 2m distance from other adults. Staff are also advised to wear a face covering when in close proximity to children if doing so does not pose a barrier to early learning and care. The Guidance specifically notes that It is expected that use of face coverings will generally be practical when attending to school age children. This aligns with the approach in schools.

The assessment of whether the wearing of a face covering is a barrier to early learning and care ((for pre-school children) will need to be made on a case by case basis. However, it will be impacted by factors such as the ages of the children, the types of interaction between the staff member and the child, whether the interaction is happening inside or outside, etc. For example, opportunities to wear face coverings without impacting on early learning and care may be more frequent when working with older (e.g. ECCE children) but less frequent with toddlers or babies.

  • Ventilation: The Guidance emphasises the importance of ventilation (see pages 10, 11, 14 and 16).
  • Other: The Guidance also includes the most up to date information on spread of the virus (p.4), sampling and testing (p.5), vaccine roll out (p.6), periods of self-isolation and restricted movements (p.18) and a reminder to staff to minimise contacts inside and outside of work (p.21).

Reopening Guidance videos

Please find below YouTube playlist links to the recently produced reopening guidance videos issued by the Department available in both English and Irish.   (ENGLISH)    (IRISH)

Providers and their staff are advised to read the revised Guidance closely and update policies and procedures as required.

We wish you well on Monday morning.

Kind regards

Early Years Communications Team

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