INMO: Some nurses paying €110 per day for childcare as govt scheme scrapped

The childcare plan for healthcare workers has been scrapped by the Government after only six providers applied to participate.

The childcare plan for healthcare workers has been scrapped by the Government after only six providers applied to participate.

Concerns about infection risk and insurance issues were among the reasons cited for the low uptake to the initiative which was due to be rolled out from Monday.

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.

The scheme would see childminders go into the homes of healthcare staff at a cost of €90 a week per family.

However, Minister Katherine Zappone announced last night it would be cancelled with the Government saying it will look into alternatives surrounding childcare.

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.

"However, it had hoped that sufficient numbers would come forward to enable the scheme to operate," it stated.

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

Funds would have also covered associated employer costs as well as a management overhead to provide for supervision and support.

Minister Zappone insisted the home-based approach met public health requirements.

"It was a temporary response in an emergency situation which required participants to operate outside of their normal environments," said her department.

"The minister acknowledged the efforts both within her own department and externally to get the scheme up and running.

"She had sincerely hoped that it would be possible to deliver such a scheme successfully and so ease some of the burden on our frontline health workers.

"Unfortunately this has not proved to be the case."

The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) said the union was not consulted on the proposals for the now-cancelled scheme, and is seeking constructive engagement in the coming days.

Over 94% of nurses and midwives are women, with childcare a major practical issue.

“The government must go back to the drawing board. Everyone wants to see a successful scheme, so we will be engaging constructively with the government to get this sorted," INMO General Secretary, Phil Ní Sheaghdha, said.

“A key lesson from this process is that there should be constant engagement with unions and stakeholders in the design of these schemes.

“Until then, nurses and midwives with childcare difficulties can expect maximum flexibility to allow them to attend work.

"Should that fail, they can remain home, awaiting remote work, with full pay. This was negotiated between unions and employers in the past weeks.

“If the government wants as many frontline nurses and midwives as possible at work, they will have to offer an additional scheme to make it practical.”

Ms Ní Sheaghdha has called for the money originally allocated to fund childcare for health care workers to be reallocated to those paying “over and above” rates for childcare.

She told Newstalk Breakfast that some nurses have made alternative childcare arrangements for which they are paying rates “over and above what they normally would so they can get to work.”

One nurse had been charged €110 per day to cover her 12 hour shift, she said. Others had organised for family members to move into their home, to become part of their household, so they could look after their children.

“This is costing members a lot of money”.

The money allocated for the proposed childcare scheme should be reallocated to those who have managed to secure childcare so they can pay for it, she added.

We had a lot of questions about this scheme when it was first announced. We didn’t know how it was going to work.

Ms Ní Sheaghdha said her members knew there were significant issues of concern for childcare workers and that they were not going to sign up for the scheme.

“We still have the problem of childcare.”

The general secretary pointed out that her members were very focused on providing a valuable service as they know they are needed, but finding childcare remained a key issue.

She denied that INMO members were in contravention of pandemic guidelines by making alternative childcare arrangements.

The point right now is that there is still a problem with childcare.

Some nurses are in self isolation, others have childcare issues so rosters are depleted, she said.

They had made arrangements which required someone to come into their home to provide relief so they could go to work.

“June 25 is a long way away (when creches are scheduled to reopen).”

Forsa's Bernard Harbour says the solution needs to come quickly.

"It's now nine weeks this morning since the schools and creches were closed. At that time health workers were promised that they would be given assistance to enable them to go into work to give the essential care," said Forsa's Bernard Harbour

"Now we find the scheme which was long awaited has been cancelled.

"The only way to deal with this now is for the government to give the commitment that they will reimburse the additional costs of childcare."

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

Additional reporting by Vivienne Clarke and Press Association

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