Social Democrats Spokesperson for Children Jennifer Whitmore has called on the government to urgently develop workable plans for the provision of childcare for frontline healthcare workers. The call comes following the recent announcement from the Department of Children and Youth Affairs that their proposed outreach scheme is unworkable. Deputy Whitmore has written to the Oireachtas Covid Committee asking that the item be put on the agenda for the next sitting of the committee.

Whitmore said
“It would appear that there were a number of reasons that the proposed outreach childcare system for frontline healthcare workers has failed, including the issues around insurance cover. However, whilst the proposed solution may have failed, the problem that it was designed to resolve is still an issue. Many frontline healthcare workers cannot fulfil their essential roles due to a lack of childcare and it is critical that the Government work quickly to offer an alternative for those essential workers.

“The Department must look for alternative solutions urgently. For example, is there a potential to utilise existing school buildings, already in public ownership and covered by the State Insurance Scheme to provide this childcare? Is it possible for some teachers, childcare minders and SNAs to provide appropriate childcare? Such an approach could also have the added benefit of ensuring that vulnerable children under the care of TUSLA and those with additional needs could also be prioritised for care.

“The safety of children must come first and foremost, and it will be important to base any potential solution on the advice of the Chief Medical Officer. At this stage, it is important for the Chief Medical Officer to make recommendations as to what he believes would be a safe manner to provide childcare to a limited number of children, and then the government to implement urgently. The Covid Committee has sought submissions for relevant topics to be added to the agenda and I have submitted the topic of childcare for the next sitting given the urgency of this issue.

14th May 2020

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