Fewer than 50% of Irish schools are providing special needs assistants (SNA) with personal protective equipment, according to an online survey conducted by the Fórsa Trade Union.
Only 49% of the 2,100 SNAs who responded to Fórsa’s survey could confirm that their schools had provided medical-grade facemasks.
Seventeen percent of respondents reported that they had been asked to reuse personal protective equipment (PPE).
A fifth of respondents (21%) say that the masks they were provided with do not meet the industry standard, and almost one third (23%) say that they were unsure if the PPE they were provided with were up to standard.
Re-using PPE runs contrary to current HSE guidelines, but despite this 17% of those surveyed reported that they have been asked to reuse their equipment.
Ten percent of respondents say they were told that their school had no further funds available for PPE, or that no more PPE would be made available to them.
Fewer than 50% of schools providing basic PPE – Fórsa survey https://t.co/4cleVlkBGd— Fórsa trade union (@forsa_union_ie) September 9, 2020
Fórsa’s head of education @apike1 said: “These are truly shocking results which demonstrate a callous disregard for thousands of SNAS."
Speaking on the publication of the survey’s findings, Fórsa’s head of education Andy Pike said the results were "truly shocking."
He said: "Schools have been given sufficient funding to bulk purchase PPE, face masks, aprons and gloves and this can be purchased very cheaply.
"A medical-grade face mask should cost around 30c when purchased in large quantities. There is no justification, whatsoever, for schools to refuse to buy this equipment.
Mr Pike says that the union has collected information on more than 1,000 schools that are not currently in compliance with basic health and safety provisions.
“Our next step is to send the list of non-compliant schools to the Department of Education and Skills."
Fórsa says it reserves the right to publish the details of each school if the Department of Education takes no action to ensure SNAs are supplied with the basic PPE they require.
“This research shines a light on the contradiction between the warm words of policymakers and the cold reality on the ground, where many SNAs are not even given a basic face mask - costing just 30 cents - to keep themselves safe.
"Those responsible should be ashamed,” he said.