A scheme to provide temporary childcare to healthcare workers in their homes, which was only launched last week, has been cancelled, the Government has confirmed.
According to the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Dr Katherine Zappone, the Temporary Childcare Scheme for Essential Health Workers will not proceed on May 18, as originally planned.
As part of the scheme, childcare providers were called on to volunteer to provide childcare for healthcare workers in their homes. They would have received an average wage of €15 per hour. However, uptake for the scheme among childcare providers "has been much lower than was hoped", with just six providers applying to join.
"It has become clear that the low uptake is unlikely to change," the Department of Children and Youth Affairs said.
A number of reasons were thought to have contributed to the low sign-up rate. These included the availability of insurance cover, concerns about possible virus transmission, difficulties in meeting employer responsibilities in relation to breaks and rest periods, and concerns about a lack of protection for staff working alone.
Responding to the cancellation of the scheme, the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) said that the Government "must now go back to the drawing board".
Over 94% of nurses and midwives are women and for many of these, childcare is a major issue. The INMO has been calling for childcare provision since before the COVID-19 restrictions began.
However, it says it was not consulted on the proposals for the now-cancelled scheme.
"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," explained INMO general secretary, Phil Ní Sheaghdha.
She added that everyone wants to see a successful childcare scheme and the INMO "will be engaging constructively with the Government to get this sorted".
Discussions on this topic are now closed.