Written Answers. - Child Care Workers.

John Deasy

Question:

291 Mr. Deasy asked the Minister for Health and Children if his attention has been drawn to the fact that child care workers are being discriminated against in relation to pay; if his atten tion has further been drawn to the fact that child care leaders were given this status once they had been made permanent on 1 January 2001 regardless of qualifications; the steps he intends to take to ensure the promotional prospects of qualified child care workers who were made permanent after this date; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10681/03]

The report of the expert group on various health professions published in April 2000 recommended the establishment of a joint management and union committee to deal with issues arising from the recognition of the autonomy of the child care worker profession, including the setting up of a proper career structure for child care workers. The joint committee on social care professionals was established on that basis and arising from the work of the joint committee, the grade of assistant house parent was abolished in the child care sector and replaced by the grade of child care worker and the grade of house parent was abolished and replaced by the grade of child care leader.

Significant salary increases were agreed for child care grades in the context of the restructuring process, with effect from 1 January 2001. As part of the introduction of formal professional status for child care grades, entrants to the profession are required to hold a recognised qualification. At the time of the restructuring arrangements, there were a number of assistant house parents who held recognised qualifications and, as a once-off measure, it was agreed that these staff would transfer to the child care leader scale. This "red circling" arrangement applied to assistant house parents who were in permanent employment on 31 December, 2000, a date consistent with the effective date of the new salary scales. The arrangement was designed to boost staff retention in the child care sector, an area serving a particularly vulnerable client group, where workforce stability is especially important due to the potential duration of the relationship between staff members and clients.

The "red circling" arrangement did not apply to assistant house parents without recognised qualifications. However, existing assistant house parents without recognised qualifications benefited from the pay increase awarded to their grade, an increase of more than 26% at the top of the assistant house parent-child care worker scales. The first line promotional outlet for child care workers is the child care leader grade which remains open to appropriately qualified child care workers in the normal way.

Staff paid at the child care leader rate are expected to carry out duties commensurate with the post. It is envisaged that staff who are not currently exercising the full leadership or supervisory duties of the grade due to the individual assignments held, would exercise their knowledge and professional skills in supplementary ways such as supporting staff training and develop ment. This includes the development of protocols and standards of practice specific to the profession in the context of the ongoing work required to underpin the according of formal professional status as recommended by the expert group on various health professions.