Childminders left turning away working parents because of lack of clear guidelines on status of essential and key workers eligible for childcare
Minister has met with NI Childminding Association to discuss that organisation’s priorities, vital he now hears voice of Registered Childminders themselves
Susan Fitzgerald, Unite Regional Coordinating Officer challenged the Northern Ireland Health Minister Robin Swann on his failure, and that of his Department, to address a range of concerns raised by Registered Childminders in the course of the last fortnight.
“Registered Childminders and childcare workers are providing a vital service at this time of crisis. Without the childcare they offer working parents and those with parental responsibilities, many on the frontlines of our NHS and other essential workplaces would not be able to go work.
“More than two week’s ago on May 5th, Unite wrote to the Minister on behalf of our Registered Childminder members to raise a range of pressing concerns and seek an urgent meeting. We received a standard communication confirming receipt the same day which stated that because of the volume of correspondence the Minister was receiving he was forwarding our letter to a lead policy officer for a response.
“In the intervening fifteen days, the Registered Childminders we represent have received absolutely nothing further on their concerns from the Department. This is clearly an insult to workers who are stepping forward to provide a vital and essential service at this time. It is simply not good enough”.
Reviewing some of the concerns of her members and confirming that her union had written to the Minister again to request a meeting, Ms Fitzgerald continued.
“At a time when workers are being forced back into the workplace, childminders are having to refuse childcare to working parents because of the conflicting definitions used by different Departments on who is an ‘essential worker’ and therefore eligible to receive it. Northern Ireland childminders also face exceptional rules on staffing ratios and onerous red tape bureaucracy while there is no clarity on what additional support will be provided in the face of the extraordinary operating challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Our members will not be ignored on this matter. We have written again to request an urgent meeting as well as to raise the concerns of our members.
“The Miniter has recently met with the Northern Ireland Childminding Association to discuss that organisation’s concerns for the sector – he must now listen to the voice of the Registered Childminders themselves and address their pressing concerns”, Ms Fitzgerald concluded.
I would personally like to thank unite for supporting our sector. We have had very little clarity in this whole situation. Some childminders are holding on by the skin of their teeth. Reducing down numbers childminding for two key families, loss of income, no income support due to spouse on furlough. Its sheer utter madness. Unable to get a definite answer as to taking on our regular children!!