| 12.3°C Belfast

Thousands of healthcare workers to be provided with 45 hours of childcare a week

The special provisions will be brought in later this month, according to Minister for Children Katherine Zappone.

Close

Special childcare provisions will be put in place for 5,000 healthcare workers (Anthony Devlin/PA)

Special childcare provisions will be put in place for 5,000 healthcare workers (Anthony Devlin/PA)

Special childcare provisions will be put in place for 5,000 healthcare workers (Anthony Devlin/PA)

Special childcare provisions will be put in place for 5,000 healthcare workers later this month, it has been confirmed.

Minister for Children Katherine Zappone said that from May 18, her department will oversee the provision of childcare in the homes of essential healthcare workers.

It is estimated the cost of the scheme will be in the region of 4.7 million euros a week, the majority of which will be paid for by the state.

Ms Zappone told the Dail this is part of the first phase of easing Covid-19 restrictions.

The minister, who lost her seat in the general election and made the statement in the Dail as an unelected TD, said families will pay 90 euros a week.

“Tomorrow we will be inviting registered childcare services to participate in this much-needed measure,” she said.

“Participation will be voluntary, many services have expressed an interest in supporting this initiative as being part of Ireland’s call during these challenging times.

“We have been planning this for a number of months and have listened to suggestions from the childcare sector.”

She added: “This will provide essential healthcare workers with 45 hours of childcare a week.

“We are recommending the childcare workers volunteering for the scheme are paid, on average, 15 euros per hour.

“As part of the scheme, we will also cover employer PRSI (Pay Related Social Insurance), leave accrual and any management and administrative overhead providers.”

Ms Zappone said the scheme will run for four weeks and be reviewed after a fortnight.

She added: “We’ve also commenced planning for phase three, which will see the phased reopening of creches and preschools for the children of essential workers.

“This is the first step in the phased reopening of centre-based childcare.

“It is inevitable that childcare services will not open at full capacity – fewer children attending a childcare service will increase the costs of the provision of childcare for these children.

“As outlined previously, 70% of the costs of provision of childcare are related to pay costs.

“I don’t anticipate the services will be in a position to absorb them all of these costs.”

We need to learn to live with this virusJim O'Callaghan, Fianna Fail

Some 3,733 providers have signed up to the Wage Subsidy Childcare Scheme, representing 83% of childcare providers.

Meanwhile, Fianna Fail’s Jim O’Callaghan said the Government and the minister need to place “greater emphasis” on trying to “reinstate some normality” into the lives of children and young people.

“We need to get a plan in place so that they know when they’re going to go back to school, when they can go back to playing with their friends, when they can go back and start exercising with their friends,” he said.

“The reality is that we have done well in reducing the virus in this country, we have flattened the curve but we’re not going to be eliminating this virus until such time as we have a vaccine.

“That is going to take a number of years. However, what we can’t do is indefinitely put our children and young people’s lives at a standstill while we await the development of a vaccine.

“We need to learn to live with this virus and what that means is that we need to have an efficient and speedy testing system in place that’s the only way by which we can live with this virus.”

PA