Members in Department for Communities

I wanted to write to provide you with some information on the current situation, as I understand it, regarding childcare provision in schools for key workers.

As you will know, DfC have designated almost all staff as key workers and therefore members are required to attend work where possible. Arrangements for members self-isolating remains and you should not attend work if you or a household member shows symptoms of Covid 19.

Also, any staff member who falls in the vulnerable group list should immediate engage their manager with a view to removing themselves from the workplace even if they are not showing symptoms. This absence will be reviewed and members will be paid in full. If working from home can be accommodated, it should be but regardless, members should remove themselves from work in line with Government advice.

The Minister for Education recently announced that schools would close for all students but childcare would be provided for key workers if key workers could not make other arrangements. However, this has not been without its problems. It seems that some schools were stating that both parents must be key workers before they would provide childcare arrangements but this has been clarified and one key worker as a parent/guardian is sufficient.

I have also seen correspondence from the Permanent Secretary in Dept of Education, Derek Baker, who has now confirmed that childcare in schools will only be provided normal school operational hours, ie 9.00am to 3.00/3.30pm and that home to school transport will not be provided. Also the recent message from DfC Permanent Secretary, Tracy Meharg, confirmed there was no guarantee schools can facilitate all requests for childcare.

Under the current arrangements, key workers must make every effort to attend work on Monday. Those key workers with children must seek to make arrangements for childcare to allow them to attend work. If personal arrangements can not be made, members must engage their children's school to agree that they will look after their children to allow them to attend work. If the school cannot accommodate this, it is important that members ask for written confirmation of this. Members will therefore need to urgently engage local managers seeking special leave as they cannot get childcare. I have written to senior management in DfC today requesting that any special leave application for non-attendance at work due to schools not providing childcare is approved.

Members will also need to urgently engage local managers regarding the opening times of schools if they cannot make alternative arrangements for their children. This could be starting later or leaving early to drop off or collect kids. I have written to senior management in DfC today requesting that any attendance at work that is restricted due to schools is considered a full day and there will be no impact on salary or special leave limits.

I hope this explains the current position and please engage your local NIPSA branch representative if you need assistance with any problems arising from this. If you cannot get your branch rep, please contact your NIPSA DfC Seconded Officer or contact NIPSA HQ.

Dooley Harte
Assistant Secretary