By Bill Heaney
Jackie Baillie, MSP for Dumbarton, Vale of Leven, Helensburgh and Lomond has urged the Deputy First Minister, John Swinney, to ensure that councils receive additional guidance so that key workers receive the support they needed amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
This was following reports that category two key workers, such as police officers and food retail and pharmacy staff , did not have access to childcare provision, making it difficult for them to continue to carry out their jobs.
Jackie Baillie said: “We all know how important it is to ensure that our key workers are able to carry out their work at this time. Individuals such as those working within the police force and the pharmacy and food retail sector are risking their health in order to ensure that we are protected and supported during this uncertain time
“The least the government can do is to make sure they can access childcare so that they can keep working.
“I have called on the Deputy First Minister to work alongside local authorities so that no key worker is left at a disadvantage while they carry out work which will hugely benefit each and every one of us.”
John Swinney told the MSP: “I understand the seriousness of the issues that Jackie Baillie raises, but there is an important point that must be borne in mind, which is that we have to minimise the number of children who are brought into learning and childcare settings. If we do not do that, we will defeat the public health advice that is driving this exercise.
“I am sorry if that sounds hard, but we must be conscious of the need to limit the number of children who come into such settings.
“That is why I appeal to employers and families to follow the tiered guidance that we have put in place, which is about trying to find alternative solutions for childcare before trying to secure places in childcare settings through local authority provision.
“Jackie Baillie asked for clarity about the guidance, and I confirm the points that she made about the composition of category 2 workers. We have deliberately left flexibility in the hands of local authorities, so that they can take into account the circumstances that they are presented with.
“Some sectors are more prevalent in some parts of the country than they are in others. If we specify a uniform national approach, we will just create a different set of anomalies from those that Jackie Baillie has raised.
“We need to allow the key workers whom we need to contribute to the national effort to be able to get childcare support. That is the objective that we jointly share with our local authority partners.”