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Childcare scheme for healthcare workers scrapped after only six providers apply

The scheme was launched last week and was due to begin on Monday.

Children's Minister Katherine Zappone.
Children's Minister Katherine Zappone.
Image: RollingNews.ie

THE GOVERNMENT HAS scrapped plans to provide childcare to healthcare workers during Covid-19 due to poor uptake by providers. 

The scheme, which was launched last week, was due to start on Monday and would have seen childcare professionals provide services in family homes. 

Under the scheme, families would have to pay €90 per week for a childcare worker to look after their children in the home, but the majority of the cost was to be be paid by the State, Children’s Minister Katherine Zappone said. 

Zappone said last week the cost of the scheme will be €4.7 million per week but childcare providers subsequently warned their insurance wouldn’t cover them for Covid-19 claims if they took part in the scheme. 

In a statement this evening, The Department of Children & Youth Affairs said that only six providers had applied to the new scheme, adding that a “variety of reasons have been put forward for the low sign-up rate. 

“These include availability of insurance cover, concerns about possible virus transmission, difficulties in meeting employer responsibilities in relation to breaks and rest periods, and concerns about a lack of protection for staff working alone.

“The Department was always conscious of the fact that the 27,000 workforce consisted predominantly of women, many of whom had their own parental and caring responsibilities and some of whom had underlying health conditions,” said the Department.

“However, it had hoped that sufficient numbers would come forward to enable the scheme to operate.”

In a statement this evening, Fórsa trade union called on the government to refund additional childcare costs that essential health workers have incurred since schools and crèches were closed on 12 March. 

A Fórsa spokesperson said: “It’s now nine weeks since schools and crèches were closed. At that time, the Government promised that it would help essential health workers, thousands of whom have since incurred massive additional childcare costs in order to continue serving the public.

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“The only practical solution now – to do right by staff and maximise the numbers available in our hospitals and community health settings – is for the Government to agree to meet the additional costs that essential health workers have incurred.”

Sinn Féin’s spokesperson on Children and Youth Affairs Kathleen Funchion TD, meanwhile, said it was “inexcusable” that the scheme had been cancelled and criticised the government for not providing childcare workers with an indemnity. 

“The Department of Children and Youth Affairs had been planning this emergency childcare service for some time and has known about this issue. It is incredible that this could not be resolved and that the Minister has now cancelled this scheme,” said Funchion.

“It beggars belief that over eight weeks into this pandemic, the government still has not found a solution to this issue – despite repeated announcements that they would – and both childcare workers and frontline health workers have been left in limbo once again,” she said. 

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