Sir, – The report of a mother refused entry to a supermarket with her child due to Covid-19 restrictions (News, April 13th) is unfortunately not an isolated case. As a group of organisations supporting children and families across the country during the Covid-19 crisis, we know that the ban on children in some supermarkets is causing significant difficulty and unnecessary stress for some families.
Although there is no specific guidance from the HSE on children’s attendance in shops, we understand that stores are refusing entry to children and limiting shoppers to one person per trolley to make social distancing requirements more manageable. This is understandable, yet it is important to recognise that this isn’t feasible for a small number of parents, namely those who are parenting alone and partners of frontline and essential workers.
A blanket ban on children accessing supermarkets can cause or exacerbate food poverty or lead to concerns in relation to child protection and welfare issues if children are left alone at home, in a car or outside a shop.
Importantly, such practices would appear to be indirectly in breach of their obligation not to discriminate on the family status ground in the Equal Status Acts 2000.
However, we understand that there are public health considerations to contend with and suggest that retailers choose alternative measures that ensure parents can shop safely with their children where this is necessary.
We have written to retailers proposing the following measures: prioritise online delivery services for frontline workers and lone parents, in addition to those aged over 65 and cocooning. Ensure staff safety by having plexiglass screens at tills, floor markings and high-quality signage about safe distancing throughout shops. Allocate special shopping times for parents that must bring children with them. Develop a child-friendly shopping experience which could include child-height sanitising stations. Develop child-friendly shopping guidelines for parents and promote these via social media.
Retailers are working towards a safe shopping experience for everyone and creating an environment for families to shop safely in is just part of that. We believe there is a great opportunity for leadership on this issue by retailers in Ireland and we are eager to promote good practice when we are aware of it. – Yours, etc,
Children's Rights Alliance;
Free Legal Advice Centres;
National Women's Council of Ireland;
Single Parents Acting for the Rights of Kids;
Society of St Vincent de Paul, Dublin 1.