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Public service workers to be transferred to help with contact tracing and social welfare applications

It comes after a flood of workers signalled their desire to help tackle the public health crisis.

Army cadets receiving contact tracing training.
Army cadets receiving contact tracing training.
Image: Paul Reid via Twitter

AN EMERGENCY MOBILISATION will see public service workers temporarily reassigned to help with contact tracing and other efforts to deal with the Covid-19 outbreak.

The measure will see staff from across the civil and public service reassigned to the HSE and the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection, which are the public bodies worst hit by the coronavirus pandemic.

Government documents show that all staff, who are not in roles that are currently deemed essential by their organisation, will be immediately released for reassignment as part of the effort to face the “most significant crisis faced by our country in living memory”.

Staff will receive training and upskilling to equip them to face their new role. They will be in the new post for an initial period of up to three months, with a possible extension if required.

It comes after unions and government departments were flooded with messages from workers saying they wanted to help colleagues who were under pressure across the system.

The new arrangements were published in a Department of Public Expenditure and Reform circular to public service HR managers and personnel officers.

It notes that staff who are reassigned will continue to be paid by their parent organisation and their skills and experience may be factored into their temporary assignment.

“You will appreciate that the challenges we are currently facing are unprecedented, and your continued cooperation is vital to ensure that critical services are provided,” it reads.

Over 16,000 people have applied for the pandemic unemployment payment since it was established by the government on Monday.

Helping to process these applications and helping the HSE with contact tracing are currently the top priorities for the reassigned staff, however that may change as the situation evolves.

Contact tracing is the process of identifying anyone who has had close contact with a person who is a confirmed Covid-19 case, during the time when the confirmed case is considered to have been infected with the virus.  

Approximately 1,200 people are currently involved in contact tracing efforts in Ireland, including members of the Defence Forces. It is an an essential part of Ireland’s efforts to respond to Covid-19.

Fórsa, Ireland’s largest public services union, said it received a large number of queries from members who wanted to volunteer to take on critical roles.

The Teachers Union of Ireland also told TheJournal.ie that a number of members had contacted it saying they wished to contribute to the national effort to deal with the health crisis.

It has been in contact with the Department of Education in an effort to facilitate such requests, however the roll-out of the assignments hasn’t been confirmed.

Earlier today, health minister Simon Harris said that 24,000 people responded to the HSE’s recruitment campaign for healthcare workers in just 24 hours. “Ireland, I love you! What an amazing national effort. Thank you so much. Let’s keep at it,” the minister said.

About the author:

Ceimin Burke

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