The State will top up the wages up staff in the childcare sector to the maximum amount allowed under a coronavirus subsidy scheme, Minister for Children Katherine Zappone has said.
In addition to an existing Revenue wage subsidy scheme the Department of Children will top-up the wages of childcare staff to a maximum of €586 per week.
Speaking on Thursday, Ms Zappone said childcare providers have until next Tuesday, April, to sign up to the Wage Subsidy Childcare Scheme. The scheme was introduced to encourage staff to remain with their employer rather than claiming unemployment benefit, while childcare facilities remain closed due to coronavirus restrictions.
"There will be a payment in terms of a wage subsidy in addition to the wage subsidy provided by Revenue, my department will top up the wages of staff," Ms Zappone told RTÉ radio's News at One.
The wage subsidy scheme was introduced to ensure providers could stay afloat and re-open after the coronavirus pandemic, and to provide parents “with reassurances that they are not required to pay fees during this Covid-19 crisis”, a department spokesman said.
The childcare wage subsidy scheme would begin making payments from April 24th to providers who sign up by the beginning of next week, the spokesman said.
In addition the department will also provide funding to help cover ongoing operational costs of childcare operators, where they would receive a payment amounting to 15 per cent of the operator’s gross weekly staff costs.
With regard to providing childcare for frontline workers Ms Zappone said the issue has come up on the agenda of the national public health emergency team, and she hoped a decision would be made on the matter relatively soon.
“For those who are running the free pre-school - what we are offering, the owner will be able to access the €350 payment per week, we do believe and we hope it can be enough to sustain them during this period,” Ms Zappone said.
“At the very least it would be critical that when we move post-Covid that there is a way to maintain a provision of a wage that is fair. I have always argued that we ought to be paying at least a living wage within the childcare sector,” Ms Zappone said.
Patrick Costello TD, Green Party spokesman on children, had criticised delays in setting out the details of the scheme for the childcare sector.
Mr Costello said the delay providing details since the scheme was announced three weeks ago was “not good enough” from Ms Zappone.