Speech on Order of Business: Pay for Student Nurses, Vaccination, Catch-Up for Children Scheme

15 February 2021

Ivana Bacik

I wish to second the proposal by my colleague, Senator Moynihan, to take No. 11, the Student Nurses (Pay) Bill 2021, at the end of the Order of Business. We are hoping to debate that on Second Stage on Friday. This, of course, is the Bill being proposed by our colleague, Senator Hoey, on payment for student nurses, which I know is a hugely topical and important issue.

I also welcome the roll-out today of the vaccination programme within the community to over-85s. It is a real piece of good news in the context of what has been a grim start to the year. That it is now being done this week should be acknowledged. We all hope it could be done more swiftly, perhaps, than it has been to date but we hope it will go smoothly. I welcome it.

I join Senator Moynihan in calling for a debate on our Labour Party proposal for a €100 million catch-up for children scheme. I spoke about this on Friday in the context of providing education and supports for catching up for children with additional needs in education. We all very much welcome the fact that certain education has been resumed for children with additional educational needs. Next Monday will see special classes in mainstream schools resuming. That is welcome.

As Senator Moynihan said so eloquently, we need to acknowledge the enormous impact the prolonged closure of schools has had on all our children, the uncertainty around the resumption of opening of schools and the uncertainty around leaving certificate and junior certificate exams for all the children in secondary schools.

The difficulties that prolonged closures have caused for parents have been well discussed but they need to be restated. It is hugely difficult for many people to combine work and homeschooling as well. "Homeschooling" is such a euphemism because there is nothing easy about it. It is such a glib phrase that really downplays the enormous impact of this prolonged school closure upon children and parents. The impact of the denial of educational opportunities on all our children, many of whom have additional needs or are living in poverty, homelessness or direct provision, is absolutely appalling. Therefore, we need to see an acknowledgement by the Government of the importance of providing supports for children. The Labour Party has been calling for a catch-up for children scheme. I would love to see a debate on that in this House.