SCHOOL Special Needs Assistants (SNAs) are being redeployed to work in community-based centres for children with disabilities during the Covid-19 crisis
The 16,000 SNAs are being asked to make themselves available to free up as many nurses as possible for hospitals and other healthcare settings.
It is part of the wider temporary reassigment of public service workers, who are not medically advised to isolate, to essential services in their own sector or elsewhere.
Schools have been closed for almost three weeks and, while teachers are expected ro continue working, from a distance, SNAs cannot do their regular job remotely.
SNAs provide non-educational services in the classroom, supporting the wider care needs, including toileting and feeding, of children with special needs.
Community services for children with a disability have been identified as the initial priority area for SNAs, including public, private and voluntary healthcare settings.
However, as well as being on standby for community-based settings, some SNAs will be asked to work remotely with children they already know. This could include scheduled calls or video links with advice on routines, home schooling, behaviour management and social stories on Covid-19.
Education Minister Joe McHugh thanked all employees in the education and training sector for their efforts, stating "your work at this time will never be forgotten by the people you support."
He said SNAs would be able to put their skills and experience to use during this time in support of the national effort.
“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.
“I know this is a new departure for many people but opening up a temporary assignment programme 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 all of them.
The Public Appointments Service (PAS) has set up a dedicated process to facilitate the temporary reassigment of SNAs.
All SNAs will be asked to access a web link by April 7, where 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 the PAS.