Building Blocks Capacity Grant Expansion Scheme – Applications now Open
The application process for the Building Blocks Capacity Grant Expansion Scheme is now open. The opening of the application process was announced by Minister O’Gorman in a press release today. This follows on from the initial announcement of the scheme on 7th December 2023. €18 million is being made available to fund the scheme.
This scheme is designed to support existing services to undertake reconfigurations or renovations that will increase their full day and/or part time places capacity for 1-3 year-olds (pre-ECCE), where there is evidence of demand for additional places.
The grant will be open to both private and community-based services who are Core Funding Partner Services. Community services will be fully-funded for projects of between €50,000 and €100,000. Private services will be required to demonstrate evidence of match funding, with a maximum contribution by the Department of 50% of total project costs, between €25,000 and €50,000.In order to be eligible for grants, services must commit to increasing their service provision by at least five places for 1-2 year-olds or at least six places for 2-3 year-olds (pre-ECCE), or to increase capacity over both age cohorts to a minimum of six. Places for children in other age brackets may also be eligible for funding once these minimum requirements are met. Minimum requirements for the number of hours of provision per week and weeks per year also apply.
The appraisal of applications will assess the extent to which the application meets the priorities of the scheme, demonstrates evidence of need, value for money, the amount of new capacity delivered and the quality and achievability of the project. The appraisal process will incorporate analysis from a Relative Demand Model that has been developed. This will be used as part of the scoring in order to target investment to areas with biggest mismatch between supply and demand.A key factor in eligibility to access the scheme will be a check to ensure that fees charged by services applying do not exceed a Maximum Fee Threshold. This is to ensure that capital investment does not result in the delivery of places that are unaffordable to parents. The calculation and application of the Maximum Fee Threshold are outlined in the Applicant Guidelines.
The Expansion Grant scheme is the first of two strands of the Capacity Grant Scheme and a larger-scale Extension Grant Scheme will open later in 2024.The Applicant Guidelines are available on the Early Years Hive. Applications from eligible services are now open and will close on 3rd April 2024. Successful applicants will be notified in June.
Tusla Regulatory Notice: Use of Water Beads in Early Years Services
Tusla have published a regulatory notice which sets out requirements for Early Years Services in relation to the use of Water Beads.
You can access the document on their regulatory notices page.
NCS Change in Ending Claims with FAQ
As of 17/02/2024 there is going to be a significant change to HIVE.
Now, when parents end the award (CHICK) it will make the current claim invalid and service providers will have to end the claim before they can create a new one.
From this date 17/02/2024, a parent ending their award on NCS will automatically end the claim too. Therefore, service providers will not have to end the claim and if child is still in the service, they can create a new claim with the new CHICK without ending the current claim.
To help understand this new process, the Early Years Team has responded to some FAQ:
- Will the parents know they’re ending the claim when ending the award?
Yes, there will be a warning message when the parents applies for the new award informing them that this action will end the existing claim. Parents will also receive a notification with the new end date for the claim.
- How can parents end the award?
Parents can end the award by simply applying for the new award when the old one has not expired yet.
- What will be the new end date for the claim if the award has been ended?
It will always be Sunday of the week in which the award has been ended. For example, if parents applied for a new CHICK and cancelled the existing one on Friday 16/02/2024, the new end date for the claim will be Sunday 18/02/2024.
- How do I know which claims have been ended?
Service Providers will receive a notification with the CHICK number every time an applicant ends their award so it is important to regularly check your notification on the Early Years Hive. Also, on Hive under NCS registrations, there is a view called “Claims Ended by Applicant.” In that view, service providers will be able to see all of these claims.
- The child has already left the service and award was ended by the applicant, do I have to do anything else?
No, if child already left the service you don’t need to do anything.
- The child is still attending the service, what do I need to do?
You need to ask the parents for a new CHICK and then create a new claim. You won’t need to end the old claim as it will be cancelled automatically.
- I have a sponsored child who attends the service. When the sponsor ends the award, what should I do?
If the child has left the service, then you don’t need to do anything as the claim has already ended. If the child is still in the service, then you can ask the parents if they received the new CHICK or contact sponsor line at 01 906 8535.
Tusla Inspection Findings Review and Factual Accuracy Processes
As advised at the end of January, the current inspection Disputed Findings process has been extensively reviewed and enhanced. The process is now called Inspection Findings Review (IFR) process and will be implemented for inspections which are carried out on or after 12th February 2024. The process for Inspection Findings Review and for Factual Accuracy have been separated into two distinct clear processes.
The Inspection Findings Review provides a clear and robust process for when a registered provider disagrees with inspection findings in the inspection report.
You can access all the relevant documents, along with a number of guidance documents to support you with the process on our Inspection Tools and Templates webpage.
A webinar was held to outline the new process on 29th January 2024 which has been recorded and made available on the Tusla website. You can access the session, along with the presentations , on the Tusla webinars page. A one-page guidance document is also be available.
New Funding Model and Workforce Plan Webinar
NCCA Transitions Resources.
Find the link to Gov.ie resources here
The National Centre for Special Education have information on supporting transitions of children with special educational needs that you might find useful to pass on to parents: the link is here
For some additional information for what to expect in Naionra click here
ECCE Information for Providers
The Free Pre-school Year in the Early Childhood Care & Education Programme (ECCE) is a universal childcare programme designed to give children access to up to 2 years free preschool education before they start primary school.
For eligibility information please see Eligibility for ECCE
For further details see Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth website
Fire and Planning Requirements for Early Years Services
In August Tusla issued Guidance on Fire & Planning Requirements for Early Years Services Re-Registration and Change of Circumstances Process. For further information see Fire_and_Planning_Requirements_for_Early_Years_Services_Re_Registration
Early Years is an overarching term that includes Preschool Services. Tusla, Child and Family Agency is responsible for inspecting preschools, play groups, day nursery, crèches, day-care, childminders and similar services which cater for children aged 0-6 years.
The Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, published the Child Care Regulations (The Child Care Act 1991 (Early Years Services) Regulations 2016 on the 4th May 2016. These Regulations are effective on a phased basis from 30th June 2016. The 2016 Regulations provide for pre-school services, that is, those services catering for children under the age of 6 who are not attending primary school.
Part 12 of The Child and Family Agency Act amends the Child Care Act 1991(as inserted by section 92 of The Child and Family Agency Act) known as Part VIIA sets out the Supervision of Early Years Services.
For further information in relation to the childcare regulations see Tusla Child & Family Agency
School Age Services
As stated above Tusla’s Early Years Inspectorate is responsible for the regulation of pre-schools, play groups, day nursery, crèches, day-care and similar services which cater for children aged 0-6 years.
From January 2019 the registration of School Age Services is included in this remit following the publication of the Child Care Act 1991 (Early Years Services) (Registration of School Age Services) Regulations 2018.
Further information can be accessed here
Focused Inspection Tool
The Child Care Act 1991 (Early Years Services) Regulations 2016 require that all early years services in Ireland are required to strive for full compliance across all early years regulations, however it is accepted that at present there are areas that require greater focus and attention. Resulting from this, the Child and Family Agency introduced a revised model of Preschool Inspection. Currently the primary scope of early years inspection will be the areas identified as requiring improvement; Governance, Welfare and Safety. Below is a link to the Tusla website where providers can access the inspection tool to make themselves familiar with what the inspectorate are looking at when performing an inspection.
Early Years Education Focused Inspection
Early-Years Education-focused Inspections (EYEI) are carried out in early-years services participating in the Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) Programme – a programme which provides a period of free early childhood care and education for children before they start school.
During these inspections, the quality of the nature, range and appropriateness of the early educational experiences for children participating in the ECCE Programme is evaluated. The main activity of an EYEI inspection is the observation, by the inspector, of the processes and practices relating to children’s learning in one or more learning rooms or areas in the early-years setting.
At the end of each inspection the early-years practitioners and the owners/managers (where available) are given feedback on the quality of educational provision in the setting. Subsequently a written report is sent to the pre-school inspected outlining the inspection findings and providing advice as to how educational provision in the setting can be further developed or improved. The inspection report is published on the Department of Education and Skills website.