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Nursing union ‘not surprised’ Government childcare scheme was scrapped

The scheme, which would have seen temporary childcare for healthcare workers in their homes, was cancelled due to low uptake from providers.

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Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation director of Industrial relations Phil Ni Sheaghdha (Niall Carson/PA)

Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation director of Industrial relations Phil Ni Sheaghdha (Niall Carson/PA)

Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation director of Industrial relations Phil Ni Sheaghdha (Niall Carson/PA)

The head of the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) has said she is not surprised the Government’s temporary childcare scheme for healthcare workers will not go ahead.

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.

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

Nurses are exhausting their annual leave trying to get to work or sort out childcare - trying to get to work is a real issue for themPhil Ni Sheaghdna, Irish Nursing and Midwives Organisation

It has been nine weeks since schools and creches were closed to stop the spread of Covid-19.

Irish Nursing and Midwives Organisation (INMO) general secretary Phil Ni Sheaghdna told RTE radio, the union had concerns about the scheme from the outset.

“We were not surprised to hear the scheme was pulled as we had some concerns and we posed a number of questions to the Department of Children.

“It became very obvious that the providers had not been consulted prior to it being drawn up.

“It is a lesson – you have to engage in consultation with those who are using the service but also those who will provide it.

“From our point of view we were not surprised. Nurses are exhausting their annual leave trying to get to work or sort out childcare – trying to get to work is a real issue for them.”

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 (Niall Carson/PA)

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

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Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Katherine Zappone was in charge of developing the scheme on behalf of the Government (Niall Carson/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.

“We have to make sure that whatever childcare scheme they replace it with, they need to consult with us, other unions and the providers.

“We still have a lot of our members who are absent with infection and that leads to staff shortages and impacts on our ability to provide a service.

“We see trolley figures increasing and that should not be happening. We should in no way have overcrowding in any department.”

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

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

Meanwhile, a Fine Gael TD has criticised a Sinn Fein proposal for the Government to indemnify childcare workers for Covid-19 related claims.

Jennifer Carroll MacNeill told RTE radio the Government is trying to balance public health need with support for healthcare workers.

“I am extremely concerned about Sinn Fein’s calls for a blanket indemnity or state indemnity for this industry. I think we have had enough of blanket indemnities in this State,” she said.

“We are facing a deficit of potentially tens of billions of euros.

“To call for another blanket guarantee is very, very difficult and populist and we need to be reasonable.”

PA