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Childcare scheme for healthcare workers cancelled

Only six childcare providers applied to participate in the emergency scheme, which had been due to start on Monday

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Children’s Minister Katherine Zappone at Government Buildings in Dublin (PA)

Children’s Minister Katherine Zappone at Government Buildings in Dublin (PA)

Children’s Minister Katherine Zappone at Government Buildings in Dublin (PA)

A scheme to offer childcare to frontline workers has been scrapped after only six providers applied to participate.

Concerns about infection risk and insurance issues were among the reasons cited for the low uptake to an initiative which had been due to begin on Monday.

The Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Dr Katherine Zappone announced the cancellation on Wednesday evening.

The scheme was designed in response to a request from the Department of Health and the HSE to put emergency childcare in place for essential health workers.

It would have seen childcare workers coming into the homes of healthcare workers to look after their children.

Other reasons offered by the department for the low uptake were issues around employer responsibilities in relation to breaks and rest periods; and concerns about a lack of protection for staff working alone.

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Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Katherine Zappone was in charge of developing the scheme on behalf of the Government (PA)

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Katherine Zappone was in charge of developing the scheme on behalf of the Government (PA)

PA

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Katherine Zappone was in charge of developing the scheme on behalf of the Government (PA)

The department said it had always been conscious of the fact that the 27,000 workforce in the childcare sector consisted predominantly of women, many of whom had their own parental and caring responsibilities and some of whom had underlying health conditions.

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

Funding for the emergency scheme would have allowed for an average wage of 15 euro per hour for childcare practitioners.

Funds would have also covered associated employer costs as well as a management overhead to provide for supervision and support.

The minister insisted the home-based approach met public health requirements.

“It was a temporary response in an emergency situation which required participants to operate outside of their normal environments,” said her department.

“The minister acknowledged the efforts both within her own department and externally to get the scheme up and running.

“She had sincerely hoped that it would be possible to deliver such a scheme successfully and so ease some of the burden on our frontline health workers.

“Unfortunately this has not proved to be the case.”

Under Ireland’s lockdown exit plan, the phased reopening of early learning and childcare facilities is provisionally earmarked for June 29.

PA