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Coronavirus: New scheme for keyworker children to be looked after ‘in own homes as much as possible’

The Minister detailed a bespoke system having earlier warned: 'In a few short weeks this onslaught could very rapidly dwarf the impact of the Troubles on our society'

A new bespoke childcare system to help meet the needs of ‘key workers’ fighting to save lives during the pandemic crisis is to be implemented across Northern Ireland.

Details of the bespoke system have been revealed by Health Minister Robin Swann.

Earlier in the day, Minister Swann delivered another hard-hitting warning to the public when he said it appeared the message of the need for social distancing was not getting through.

He said: “The very same virus that is creating untold devastation in Italy and elsewhere is here and spreading in our community right now. It threatens us with an onslaught.

“In a few short weeks this onslaught could very rapidly dwarf the impact of the Troubles on our society.

“But we are not powerless in this situation. We can push it back. We can fight back.

“So let me urge everyone across society to do the right thing. Do it not just for yourself but for your family, friends and neighbours. Do it for our health workers and the health service.

“Stay at home. Save lives. When or if you absolutely have to go out, keep your distance from others. And keep washing your hands throughout the day. Please everyone hammer this message home however you can.”

This evening, the Health Minister provided more information of a childcare system being rolled out to ensure those who needed to work for the greater public good could do so.

He said: “I am very aware that keyworkers are faced with the challenges of juggling their essential business with looking after those most precious to them. This new scheme is intended to help keyworkers have their children looked after in their own home as much as possible.

“The scheme will support those who are on the frontline in our fight against COVID-19. It is open to the key workers who are providing clinical care to coronavirus patients; health and social care workers who are supporting life threatening emergency work, as well as critical primary and community care provision; and all the other health and social care workers, and wider public sector workers who provide critical services.

“Daycare providers have agreed to work with us to make that possible and I want to thank them for that. Parents should speak to their provider as quickly as possible to get the approval process underway.”

Under the scheme, children of keyworkers will be temporarily matched with one daycare worker from the setting that they currently attend. The scheme will prioritise the needs of key workers with babies and toddlers.

The Department of Health will monitor demand and make any changes necessary to ensure the childcare needs of critical workers are met, this may include prioritising the needs of some key worker groups.

The Department is also developing other childcare options for keyworkers.

The Home Childcare scheme will only be operational during the COVID-19 pandemic and the daycare workers involved in the scheme will return to their former roles within daycare settings when the scheme closes.

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