Fórsa has sent the following bulletin today (1st April 2020), to over 9,000 special needs assistants.
“School principals, boards of management and ETBs have today been asked by the Department of Education and Skills to identify school staff who can be reassigned to critical work areas on a temporary basis.
“In a circular published today, the department says the appropriate temporary role for special needs assistants (SNAs) will be to work in the HSE’s children’s disability services supporting their allocated students and families while schools are closed.
“Those SNAs temporarily reassigned to HSE children’s disability services will maintain contact with their regular (allocated) student and their family. This will be done through video link, WhatsApp, Facetime, Zoom or other applications.
“These SNAs will be advising parents on setting up workstations, sharing the child’s familiar school schedule (eg, toileting schedule, sensory break, story time or learning activities) and sharing stories to help the child’s understanding of Covid–19. The same will apply if an SNA is asked to make contact with a new student and family.
“The HSE has issued a guidance document setting out the requirements of the role which, for most SNAs, will involve working with their usual students and families.
“Some SNAs may be assigned to young people or disabled adults to provide information on how to access essential services. The HSE will provide an information pack for this purpose.
“The department says other roles may be suggested in the future.
“If your school says you are available for temporary reassignment (not on sick leave or self-isolating), you will receive a questionnaire from the Public Appointments Service (PAS). This will ask for your personal details, work experience, skills and preferred work location.
“The PAS will match staff to the roles where help is needed. The PAS isn’t able to facilitate volunteers for specific roles at this stage, but this may be reviewed in future.
“Any reassignment would be for 12-weeks during which SNAs would be under the line management of the HSE.
“However, measures already in place guarantee that SNAs who are reassigned will continue to be employed – and paid by – their existing employer. And they will return to their existing employer and role once the temporary transfer is over.
“The process, which covers all grades in the schools sector, will start this week. But there will be a delay in allocating staff to new roles because the HSE requires Garda vetting in accordance with their own procedures.
“Staff who are on sick leave, or are self-isolating on medical advice, will not be reassigned. Those with childcare and other caring commitments can be asked to work at home.
“The reassignments are part of a public service-wide mobilisation to meet the challenges posed by the coronavirus. All Government departments and agencies have been instructed to identify staff who can be reassigned, on a temporary basis, to areas of greatest need during the crisis.
“The responsibility for identifying staff for reassignment from independent schools rests with school principals and boards of management. In ETB schools, the chief executive of the ETB will make the decision with school principals.
“Fórsa is engaging with the department and the HSE on the details of how this process will work in practice. The union will be communicating with members on developments as they arise.”