Special needs assistants (SNAs) are to be temporarily reassigned to other public service duties, in order to free up frontline workers for essential services, the Department of Education has announced.
This new temporary assignment scheme forms part of the Government's response to the COVID-19 (coronavirus) crisis. It is part of a wider temporary assignment scheme, which is opening for public sector employees.
SNAs assist teachers to support students with special educational needs who also have other care needs. For example, a child may need assistance with mobility, going to the toilet, eating, or taking medication.
All SNAs will be asked to access a web link by April 7. They will answer a questionnaire and details will be uploaded for the temporary assignment process.
Their temporary assignments will be managed on a structured, centralised basis through the Department of Education and Skills and the Public Appointments Service.
The Public Appointments Service and HSE will check skills and match them with requirements before making contact with details of the reassignment role and location of work.
Community services for children with a disability have been identified as the initial priority area for the temporary reassignment of SNAs, including in public, private and voluntary healthcare settings.
SNAs may also be asked to provide remote supports to families of children who they are familiar with, including scheduled calls or video links, with advice on routines, home schooling and behaviour management.
"SNAs do fantastic work day in, day out for children with a variety of needs in our schools. Their support hugely enriches the lives of children. Crucially, they have much needed skills and experience, which can be of huge benefit to other services and I believe will be of great support to the national effort.
"I know this is a new departure for many people, but opening up a temporary assignment scheme is about giving some workers the opportunity to be on standby to help others in great need," commented the Minister for Education, Joe McHugh.
The department noted that while all SNAs will be eligible for temporary assignment, "it is not envisaged at this stage that there will be an opportunity for every SNA".
Minister McHugh added that this is a "very challenging time for everyone".
"Your work at this time will never be forgotten by the people you support," he said.
Discussions on this topic are now closed.