SIPTU has called for all childcare services in financial difficulty to have ‘fast track’ access to the Early Learning and Care Sustainability Fund, which was announced this week as part of the Government’s response to the COVID-19 crisis. SIPTU Head of Organising, Darragh O’Connor, said: “The COVID-19 Childcare Scheme announced this week by the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Katherine Zappone, is welcome. We also welcome the statement by An Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, in the Dáil yesterday (26th March) in which he expressed the hope that the increased state funding of the sector will be largely maintained once the current crisis is resolved. “The scheme covers wage costs of the childcare sector, guarantees that parents don’t have to pay fees and supports employers with a 15% top up payment.” He added: “However, the existing childcare scheme is being ended. In some circumstances this will mean that services may become unsustainable and could be forced to close. In order to support community and private services that are in this position, we are calling for them to be able to avail of ‘fast track’ access to the Early Learning and Care Sustainability Fund. “This will ensure that vital public childcare facilities are sustained, and staff retained for the duration of the crisis.”