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Childcare needs of 7,000 healthcare workers needs to be addressed ‘urgently as a matter of public health’ – SEAS SUAS

  • The childcare sector and our health experts need to convene to bring forward a plan as 7,000 workers tell HSE they need support
  • The NPHET was due to consider proposals for childcare support at its meeting today but as yet, no proposals have been forthcoming
  • Ireland should look to solutions implemented in other EU countries in managing the challenges of childcare during the global pandemic

Seas Suas, the early learning and care (ELC) body that represents childcare providers in Ireland, said that a plan to address the childcare needs of the 7,000 healthcare workers who have indicated they need support should be developed and implemented as a matter of urgency, in the interest of public health and our ongoing efforts to stop the spread of Covid-19.

The call comes as the HSE chief executive said this weekend that a childcare scheme for essential workers remained under discussion among Government and public health specialists while 7,000 of its employees seek support.

The National Public Health Emergency Team was due to consider proposals for childcare support at its meeting today (Tuesday) but as yet, no proposals have been forthcoming.

Last week, Seas Suas called for deeper engagement involving the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET), the Department of Children and Youth Affairs (DCYA), Department of Education and Skills (DES) healthcare representatives and childcare providers to seek to address the childcare challenges currently being faced by essential healthcare workers.

In calling for an intensification of efforts to find nationally approved, safe childcare and schooling options for healthcare workers, Seas Suas said its members were ready to play a role in addressing this complex challenge and how this could work in practice.

25% of those who have tested positive for Covid-19 work in healthcare, with many healthcare workers having to isolate. This is creating added resource pressures on both healthy frontline staff and the stretched system overall.

However, given that a ‘staggering 7,000 health service staff have indicated this weekend that they need some form of childcare support to actually continue working during the Covid-19 crisis, escalates our call for engagement to a call for immediate action,’ said Regina Bushell, Seas Suas and Managing Director of Grovelands Childcare.

‘Clarity on the numbers admitting to needing childcare support – communicated by the HSE this weekend – is alarming and so requires immediate attention and action to begin to address this immense challenge in supporting our frontline workers. This is not without its challenges but the delay in coming forward with proposals, as indicted in recent weeks and as anticipated would be an outcome of today’s NPHET meeting, is worrying. As a  body representing early years providers, we are ready and willing to do what we can to address this and will move to make representations to Government in providing our guidance, support and willingness to help provide solutions to inform a plan of action.

‘Healthcare workers are among the most at risk at this time and we need to do what we can to support them to continue doing their jobs at the frontline. Childcare is a challenge and one which, working together with Government and the public health experts, we can address, formulating a plan and action accordingly.

‘Healthy frontline staff must be able to work and childcare support should not be a barrier preventing that.

‘As previously indicated, finding a one size fits all solution here is extremely complex and we are ready and willing to work with Government and the public health authorities in navigating this. As Government has rightly said, the NPHET must be 100% satisfied that any childcare solution at this time meets public health requirements.

‘ELC creche facilities, with qualified childcare professionals and complimentary support services are available, albeit at a reduced level. Equally, we should look to and learn from the solutions implemented in countries, in managing the challenges of childcare during the global pandemic.

‘We believe immediate engagement could inform a plan and allow DCYA and DES to work together with providers in identifying what safe solutions can be provided. For example, safe services, be they in primary schools supported by teachers for their pupils or ELC facilities in the vicinity of hospitals and other healthcare environments, warrant informed consideration to allow them to reopen services with adequate notice.

‘We will engage with NPHET, the Department and others to express our support and pledge a willingness to play our part,’ Bushell concluded.

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