Family and home carers have called to be included in the Government’s Covid bonus payment, which will see a tax-free recognition payment of €1,000 given to frontline healthcare workers.
Home and Community Care Ireland (HCCI), representing private home care providers employing 10,000 carers across the country, said it was awaiting “urgent clarity” from Government on home carers receiving the payment.
Chief executive Joseph Musgrave said it would be “shameful and outrageous if the Government have forgotten about the significant sacrifice and hugely valuable contribution of home care during the pandemic.”
“Home has proven to be the safest place to care for people during the pandemic with infection rates rarely above one per cent of our client base at any one time,” he said. “That success is down to the hard work of our home carers.”
Family Carers Ireland, the national charity supporting some 500,000 family carers, meanwhile called on the Government “to recognise the vital role of family carers during Covid-19 in helping to keep loved ones safe.”
'Forgotten frontline workers'
Head of communications Catherine Cox described family carers as “forgotten frontline workers”.
“What strikes me most is that this is yet again another missed opportunity to show family carers, once and for all, that the Government recognises their value and contribution in society and acknowledge them as the forgotten frontline workers that they are,” she said.
“During the Covid-19 pandemic, they played a hugely significant role in lessening the spread of the virus and supporting the Irish healthcare system by keeping vulnerable family and friends safe at home and out of hospital. They did this at time when essential supports and services were withdrawn or severely curtailed.
“Family carers were overlooked when it came to the provision of PPE, priority testing and vaccination. They continue to suffer burnout and serious ill-health caused by the stress and strain of their care work.
“The simple fact is that an extra bank holiday will be of no help to them. In fact, it will potentially increase the burden of care as schools and day services will close.”
Family Carers Ireland called for the Government to extend the Covid bonus to family carers in receipt of the Carer’s Support Grant at a cost of approximately €120 million, “bearing in mind the savings to the state of €20 billion that family carers contribute each year.”
'Where is the frontline?'
Earlier, the head of health for the Forsa trade union also called for clarity about who will be entitled to the pandemic bonus payment.
Speaking on RTÉ radio’s News at One, Eamon Donnelly said he and colleagues were “unclear” about who exactly would be entitled to the €1,000 bonus payment.
Mr Donnelly pointed out that the term clinical Covid-exposed environment could mean healthcare staff who had worked in other parts of hospitals.
Staff had had to cope with substandard PPE at the beginning of the pandemic and infection rates for those who carried out testing and swabbing in the early stages had been 28 per cent higher than other healthcare workers.
The decision over who would or would not receive the bonus payment was always going to be divisive, he warned. “Where do you draw the line? Where is the frontline? Some will feel left out.”
The Mandate trade union has also called for the payment to be extended to retail workers, especially those in the grocery sector who had worked through all the lockdowns.
-Additional reporting by Vivienne Clarke.