Childcare workers providing vital service during Covid-19 pandemic seek urgent clarity from Health Minister

Susan Fitzgerald RCORegistered Childminders are currently having to refuse childcare to working parents because guidelines over status of essential and key workers are inadequate

Unite writes to Minister on behalf of members in its Registered Childminders’ branch to seek clarification on safety ratios, vetting procedures and status on key and essential workers eligible for childcare support, as well as action against the proliferation of unregistered childminders which pose a real risk to children

Susan Fitzgerald, Unite Regional Coordinating Officer called on the Northern Ireland Health Minister Robin Swann to respond urgently issues raised by the union on behalf of those working as Registered Childminders.

“Registered Childminders and those working in childcare settings provide a vital service to society. Without them, and in the absence of widespread state-led childcare provision, parents and those with responsibility for the care of young children would face exclusion from the labour market or dependence on extended family members. The importance of their role has only grown in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic where it is impossible for many workers to avail of support from older relatives. Registered Childminders are playing a vital role, enabling those deemed to be essential workers or key workers to continue to go to work.

“Our members believe that Northern Ireland should adopt the Welsh child-minding ratios which are more consistent and ensure the safety of children. We are also calling for the introduction of Registered Childminder ID cards to enable those working in the sector to travel freely to collect children and secure necessary provisions. There must also be clarity on who exactly qualifies as an essential worker or a key worker and is therefore entitled to childcare as currently Registered Childminders are having to refuse parents due to conflicting and narrow criteria. We are also seeking clarification on whether the mindees of essential workers in situ can continue to be cared for – as different Health Trusts are approaching this issue with different rules. 

“Unite wrote to the Health Minister Robin Swann to seek a tele-meeting – an opportunity to raise these and other concerns. The Minister must address the pressing concerns of Registered Childminders with urgency – their role will be vital in ensuring workers who are forced to go to work during this pandemic can go to their place of employment knowing that their children will receive proper and safe care”, Ms Fitzgerald concluded.

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