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Minister McHugh announces contingency plans for temporary assignment arrangements for education and training sector staff

All Special Needs Assistants to be available for work in some essential public services

The Minister for Education and Skills Joe McHugh TD has today announced a contingency plan for all Special Needs Assistants to be available for a new temporary assignment scheme as part of the Government’s response to Covid-19.

A dedicated process has been set up by the Public Appointments Service on to put SNAs on standby to free up frontline workers for essential services.

The move is part of a wider temporary assignment scheme which is opening for public sector employees.

All schools are currently closed under Covid-19 restrictions. The contingency plan for reassignments is being put in place in the event of an extension to public health measures.

Minister McHugh said:

Staff across the education sector deserve huge thanks for the effort they are putting in to continue teaching and support for students amid the Covid-19 response.

It is a very challenging time for everyone. Your work at this time will never be forgotten by the people you support.

Our priority in the education and training sector is to ensure young people and students keep learning, despite the trying circumstances.

Having said that, some workers will now be able to put their skills and experience to further use.

SNAs do fantastic work day in day out for children with a variety of needs in our schools. Their support hugely enriches the lives of children. Crucially, they have much-needed skills and experience which can be of huge benefit to other services and I believe will be of great support to the national effort.

I know this is a new departure for many people but opening up a temporary assignment scheme is about giving some workers the opportunity to be on standby to help others in great need.

Although all SNAs will be eligible for temporary assignment, it is not envisaged at this stage that there will be an opportunity for every SNA. Where the need arises, staff who have been assigned can return to their original jobs.

The temporary assignment arrangements will operate on the following basis:

• Management across the education and training sector will need to consider how best to utilise staff to facilitate the delivery of educational services.

• All public servants who are not medically advised to self-isolate (because they are confirmed or pending confirmed Covid-19 cases) must be available to carry out work either to deliver services within their own sector (as a priority) or for temporary assignment within the wider public service.

• Any staff who are not required for educational or research services will be available for assignment on a temporary basis to support delivery of other essential public services.

• All SNAs will be asked to access a web link by 7 April. They will answer a questionnaire and details will be uploaded for the temporary assignment process.

• Temporary assignment will be managed on a structured, centralised basis through the Department of Education and Skills and the Public Appointments Service.

• In the case of SNAs, the Public Appointments Service and HSE will check skills and match them with requirements before making contact with details of the reassignment role and location of work.

• Community Services for children with a disability have been identified as the initial priority area for temporary assignment of SNAs, including public, private and voluntary healthcare settings.

• SNAs may also be asked to provide remote supports to families of children who they are familiar with, including scheduled calls or video links with advice on routines, home schooling, behaviour management and social stories on Covid-19.