The Covid-19 pandemic has had a huge impact on our industry in Northern Ireland. We are one of the UK’s devolved administrations which means we cannot relate to Westminster news briefings but rather use these as a comparison tool and perhaps a glimpse of what is being considered by our administrations. At times we are first to re-start industries and at other times we are yet to make the shift.
Here is Northern Ireland we are all trying to decipher words of wisdom from our current government re-start guidelines, we look to the NI executive and our own NI Education Authority, to steer our understanding as well as referring to local council and communities’ Covid-19 safe re-opening regulations that cover all public spaces, leisure amenities as well as regulation for public gatherings, events and sporting participation. Despite having so many resources we can find only one industry specific timeline (soft play businesses) all other private entertainment and leisure pursuits for children are without any signposting or advice on re-starting.
A discussion point for our industry is to look at the following re-opening timeline for NI businesses and consider if we can fit into any of the categories below;
RE-OPENING TIMELINE FOR NORTHERN IRELAND (as of 17th July 2020)
From 10 July 2020
The following service businesses are permitted to reopen from Friday 10 July 2020:
· indoor fitness studios and gyms
· outdoor leisure playgrounds, courts and gyms
· bingo halls and amusement arcades
From 11 July 2020
Outdoor horse racing and equestrian competitions can resume from July 11 with only those needed for the event being able to attend.
Outdoor competitive games and sporting events can also start from July 11. This covers both grassroots and professional competitive games and events. No spectators are allowed.
This easement is on the basis that governing body protocols are in place, that they are adhered to and that everyone in the sports sector takes responsibility for and complies with hygiene and social distancing directives to ensure a safe return to sport.
From 17 July 2020
The following service businesses are permitted to reopen from Friday 17 July 2020:
· Indoor sports and leisure facilities
· leisure centres
· Swimming pools cannot reopen at this stage.
From 29 July 2020
Subject to the control of the coronavirus transmission rate, the following will be permitted to reopen from Friday 29 July 2020:
· active venues including snooker halls
· seated venues (excluding live performances)
From 7 August 2020
Subject to the control of the coronavirus transmission rate, the following will be permitted to reopen from Friday 7 August 2020:
· soft play areas
From 28 August 2020
Subject to the control of the coronavirus transmission rate, socially distanced indoor spectators will be permitted from Friday 28 August 2020.
These easements will remain under review until ratified by the Executive ahead of the indicative date, based on the emerging situation.
Other businesses (children’s activities)
Regrettably our sector has no specific entry point on the NI recovery timeline which is frustrating and adding to our financial difficulties. Some of us in the sector have successfully offered online services such as classes and entertainment with varied levels of success. But as lockdown restrictions ease and it is now summer it has been noted that the desire from clients to retain their engagement is now low and the time for on-line engagement has passed.
It has been suggested and I agree that we build our capabilities now so that we will be able to continue to offer our classes online in the event of another lock-down, the transition to work on-line should be just a click of a button and our paying clients will just switch to our on-line services. Online services will be essential if we or our clients cannot attend our live classes due to COVID-19 restrictions such as local lockdowns or individuals having to self-isolate.
An excellent place to start working on your re-start planning and procedures is to refer to the following document by the Children’s Activities Association -http://www.childrensactivitiesassociation.org/resources/CAAGuidelines26.06.20.pdf
This document is a go-to resource for advice and signposting for what you should be considering and what adaptions will be necessary to make before you re-start.
We need to be ready and able to meet the following regulations for our sector to re-start when the green light comes.
Childcare Recovery plan Northern Ireland
Many of us work for and within the childcare sector Schools, Nurseries, Day-cares etc. Until these are restored and parents can access childcare, we are without work on so many levels.
Detailed advice for childcare providers can be found at family support NI website https://www.familysupportni.gov.uk/
The Northern Ireland Childcare recovery plan can be downloaded at
Useful links for Children's Activity Providers in Northern Ireland.
Safe working advice per sector in Northern Ireland
Education recovery plan Northern Ireland
Questions and answers Education Restart NI
Childcare Recovery plan
Childminders guidance to re-start
The Health & Safety Executive for Northern Ireland (HSENI) has produced a risk assessment template showing the approach a business should take to keep a workplace safe and healthy.