Düsseldorf/Berlin · Children will be able to return to daycare centers and kindergartens (Kitas) much earlier than originally planned. Starting on June 8, there will be limited but regular childcare services available.
Beginning on 8, all children in NRW should be able to return to their daycare centers and kindergartens - with regular but reduced services. This was announced by Family Minister Joachim Stamp (FDP) on Wednesday in Düsseldorf. Due to the corona pandemic, there will be numerous protective measures in place, and limits affecting both quality and quantity of services. For example, boys and girls will only receive childcare for 15 to 35 hours per week.
Before the corona pandemic, there was a maximum of 45 hours of care, but Stamp said that this will not be available for the time being. The ban on entry to daycare and kindergartens, referred to as “Kitas”, will be lifted as of June 8. So-called “emergency” childcare that had been provided up until then, will no longer be available.
According to the plans, only permanent fixed groups will be allowed - with no exchange between the groups. The groups will have to be physically separated from each other. Hygiene measures will continue to apply. There is still no all-clear. "We are not out of the pandemic.”
Still: "Every day without early childhood education deprives our children of opportunities," emphasized the Minister for Family Affairs. Experts warned that the lockdown could lead to considerable developmental psychological disorders for some children and also to a serious threat to their well-being.
The first step comes on May 28 when all children who are scheduled to start school this year, will be allowed to return to Kitas. From June 8, all other children will be allowed to return in a limited fashion. "Not everything will go smoothly right away." Previously, Stamp had envisaged limited but regular childcare services beginning in September - but this has changed, in part, due to the current development in the number of cases. It has not yet been decided whether fees for June will be suspended.
Kitas that are able to offer more hours due to their personnel and amount of space, should make this possible in cooperation with the supervisory authorities. However, if facilities are unable to provide the desired level of services, they may "deviate downwards" if necessary, Stamp explained. According to earlier information, about 20 percent of skilled childcare workers are not available because they have been classified as members of the corona risk group due to their age. However, the assessment of the Robert Koch Institute has recently changed, so that educators over 60 years of age are no longer generally excluded.
On the contrary, Stamp said he assumes that all educators will "come to work as normal”. Those who feel ill or are in the risk group must provide a certificate from their doctor that they are not able to work. He added that the concerns of the employees were very much being kept in mind.
Limited but regular childcare service is initially planned to run until August 31. The next steps will be decided in mid-August based on scientific findings. The state wants to test several thousand children and trained workers in Düsseldorf Kitas in order to gain new knowledge about the occurrence of infections. The state capital will become a model community for scientific monitoring. The protective measures will also be examined from an occupational health point of view - to see how well employees and children are being protected.
As start-up assistance, the Youth Welfare Offices are to receive two million FFP-2 masks and three million surgical masks for the occupational safety of the Kita employees. According to Stamp, there will also be a financial subsidy to compensate for the unusual and additional expenses.
The NRW Association of Towns and Cities welcomed an early return for all children in Kitas. However, the time and quality of the care is likely to be reduced. The trade union for education and science (GEW) demanded that the protection of employees against infection be given top priority. The Education and Science Association called it a "challenging balancing act" and, like the GEW, expressed concerns about the strained personnel situation. The SPD state parliament faction demanded a significant expansion of testing in Kitas.
Since the outbreak of the pandemic, only children whose with parents were considered to have essential jobs were allowed to attend Kitas in NRW. More children were added a week ago. For the majority, however, the doors are still closed.