Lack of childcare raised with Taoiseach

Lack of childcare support for essential staff raised directly with Taoiseach

Fórsa has today (Monday) raised the lack of childcare support for essential workers directly with An Taoiseach. In a letter to Leo Varadkar, the union’s general secretary, Kevin Callinan, said the failure to provide support for critical workers during the Covid crisis was exacerbating staffing problems in the health and care sectors.

Urging Mr Varadkar to prioritise the issue, Mr Callinan wrote: “It is now almost six weeks since schools and crèches closed, and still there is no sign of a solution to this growing problem. Staffing pressures in the health service have worsened in the meantime, as significant numbers of health workers have contracted the virus or have had to self-isolate.

639 of health workers who have contracted Covid-19 – more than 25% of the total - are health and social care professional grades represented by Fórsa.

“Inevitably, many health workers have had to take annual leave to cover gaps in their temporary childcare arrangements. This has the effect of penalising the very people who providing essential services, often at considerable personal risk to themselves, and further depleting staff complements in hospitals and elsewhere.”

Last week it emerged that over 2,500 health workers had contracted the virus. Some 639 of them – over 25% of the total – are health and social care professional grades represented by Fórsa.

Mr Callinan said Fórsa had raised the issue with the HSE and the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform on a weekly basis.

“While I fully understand that public health challenges might arise in this area, I am finding it increasingly difficult to explain to health workers – who have seen the Government and its agencies move with impressive speed to implement extremely radical changes in virtually every aspect of our lives – that there has still been no movement to support them,” he wrote.

The union says the lack of childcare support is a particular problem for single parents and carers, and for families where both adults are essential workers in the health sector or elsewhere.

Mr Varadkar announced the closure of all schools and crèches on Thursday 12th March. At that time, health unions were assured that the Government would quickly put childcare supports in place for essential staff working to prevent the spread of coronavirus and treat those with the condition.

Fórsa has repeatedly been told that the Department of An Taoiseach and the Department of Children and Youth Affairs are working on proposals.

Related: This report by Aoife Hegarty on RTE’s Morning Ireland this morning, about what happened to the long promised announcement from Dept of Children on childcare arrangements for frontline staff opens with Fórsa member Michelle. Listen back HERE.