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Paid leave to be given to public-sector partners of healthcare workers to help with childcare needs

Varadkar said that other childcare proposals are being considered for after 5 May.

Taoiseach and Ministers visit Dublin's Homeless Covid-19 response hub.
Taoiseach and Ministers visit Dublin's Homeless Covid-19 response hub.
Image: Leon Farrell

TAOISEACH LEO VARADKAR has said that a proposal is being considered to give the partners of healthcare workers paid leave in order to help alleviate childcare needs.

As mass gatherings have closed, creches and other childcare facilities have been unable to look after the children of essential workers, which has been a challenge for them in their effort to help fight against the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Speaking to reporters today, Varadkar said that he “appreciated the difficulties” faced by healthcare workers who are in need of childcare (on PrimeTime last night, he said that he had people in his circle who were in this predicament).

Varadkar said today that the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET), was considering a proposal to give paid leave to the partners of healthcare workers – if their partners worked in the public sector, but not in the health sector.

This would “allow them to stay at home and provide childcare,” he said.

“That has been approved by NPHET so we can try and action that now in the next couple of weeks. The difficulty is is that only works if it’s a public sector household, if you like.”

If both parents were healthcare workers, or if the healthcare worker’s partner was employed in the private sector, this measure wouldn’t help them.

So a second prong is being considered: whether child minders can go into people’s homes to look after healthcare workers’ children. Varadkar said that NPHET has reservations about this, but said it was being considered for the measures that could be brought in after 5 May as part of a general easing of restrictions.

“But,” Varadkar added, “they’re not happy for us to do it right now”.

Speaking at the Department of Health briefing tonight, Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan said that they were considering childcare measures for all sectors.

“It’s very conditional on the amount of cases… if we take a particular step, will we increase the amount of contact between people, it has to be in the context of the disease being as low as possible in the community.”

Other issues

Varadkar also said that it had become easier to get those with drug addictions into methadone clinics because of reduced redtape and bureaucracy. He also said that Traveller families, Roma families, drug users and those who are homeless are among the most vulnerable in a healthcare crisis.

Ahead of the European Council summit tomorrow, Varadkar said that there would be discussions about how to use the EU’s “firepower” to help countries most at risk, particularly in the Mediterranean, he said.

- with reporting from Christina Finn

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