Registered Childminders in NI left ‘out in the cold’ by the Department Of Education Covid safety precautions

Susan Fitzgerald, Unite Regional Coordinating Officer

NICMA and Unite Registered Childminders issue joint call for the Department Of Education to help forgotten key workers

Unite Registered Childminders NI and NICMA have joined forces to fight for the equality of childminders and demand they are lifted out of financial hardship.

In a joint statement, on behalf of NICMA, Chief Executive Patricia Lewsley Mooney commented,

“One week has passed since a proposal was sent to Minister Weir asking him to increase payments for childminders and yet again we are left out in the cold. Despite including three very real life case studies regarding the extra overheads and expenses childminders are facing, we are no further with an answer.

“Like every other business in Northern Ireland right now, childminders have increased expenses due to Coronavirus. Our schools have been given the help they needed in order to make it safe for children to return, why is the childminding setting any different? The same precautions need to be taken and without a top up of payment to help do this, many childminders simply can’t open or sustain their business.

“In order to keep their business a safe place, Childminders are facing higher electricity bills, heating bills, paying for extra cleaning resources such as hand sanitizer, hands free bins, separate boxes for children’s belongings not to mention cleaning and washing their furniture and clothes.”

Many childminders are already in a dire financial situation and these additional costs, which are outside of their control, are tipping them over the edge. The government have implemented these precautions but they don’t want to help foot the bill.

The proposal sought £500 per month, per childminder for July and August equating to £2.6 million of a £10.5 million pot; however, what was offered is less than £750,000, meaning each childminder only received a pitiful £150 per month. That is simply not enough to sustain their business nor to cover these extra costs.

Susan Fitzgerald, Regional Coordinating Officer for Unite, paid tribute to the effort of her union’s registered childminder members who had fought to put the issue of their sector on the political agenda.

“Registered Childminders, through their union, have raised their concerns at the highest levels. Operators in this predominantly female and previously overlooked sector have not left a stone unturned in fighting their case. 

“The Unite Registered childminders’ branch was established during the pandemic and despite only ever meeting remotely, has engaged MLAs from across the spectrum and met with the leaders of most parties, including First and deputy First Ministers as well as both Finance and Education Ministers.

“The Covid pandemic has dramatically impacted the working conditions and pay of registered childminders – who continue to provide an invaluable service at this time. One week after presenting Education Minister Peter Weir with a detailed, evidence-led business case for funding, including costings and case studies exhibiting the increased costs facing operators, they are ramping up the pressure by encouraging operators in the sector to lobby their politicians for movement.

“The ball is now squarely in the court of the politicians – they must now deliver for the registered childminder sector. Registered Childminders won’t stop their campaign for fair treatment of their sector”, Ms Fitzgerald said.

Both organisations concluded,

“Once again, the childminding sector has been discriminated against even after stepping up to the challenge during lockdown while most of the childcare sector was shut down. The payments are an insult to these registered childminders who put their lives and their family’s lives at risk while caring for key workers children during the pandemic.

“Compare this with the fact that the day-care sector were able to furlough their staff and had an ‘Approved Home Childcare Scheme’ set up with enhanced payments. They also received help with their overheads, even when they were closed, through the ‘Small Business Support Grant Scheme’.”

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