Discussions between Fórsa, the Department of Education and Skills and the HSE have been ongoing for some time with a view to developing an appropriate way for SNAs to support their students and families during the Covid-19 Pandemic. The HSE has now finalised the details of a new service which SNAs will provide during the school closure period.
SNAs will be asked to provide support to those students in receipt of HSE Disability services by way of remote working through the use of telephones, smart phones or laptops. They will receive direction and information from an HSE point of contact who will be a clinician such as a speech and language therapist, psychologist or occupational therapist who is familiar with the student and will explain what support each student and family might require. Some will need a quick call at certain points in the day, other students might require a longer period of face time. The HSE is responsible for providing advice, information and materials to be used in service delivery. The types of supports needed are summarised by the HSE as consisting of:
- Advice on what typically works for the child in school
- Demonstration / advice / training on strategies to support the child’s needs
- Support to develop a schedule to structure the child’s day
- Social stories to support their understanding of the on-going public health emergency
- Support, advice and reinforcement to address behaviours that challenge
- Provide educational or therapeutic resources / materials in collaboration with the key point of contact / teacher.
SNAs will be matched with students, wherever possible this will be their own allocated student(s). If this is not possible, they may then be matched to work with new students. Students and families requiring the greatest level of support will be prioritised.
SNAs can use their own phone, tablet or laptop to carry out this work. The HSE has developed a downloadable app to facilitate SNAs filing a brief report on sessions with their student(s), SNAs can use any available App to communicate directly with students such as Facetime, Whatsapp, video calling or simple telephone contact. The HSE will provide induction for all SNAs who are asked to participate in the new service. Where possible they will ask SNAs to attend one of their offices to do this but where SNAs are self-isolating, have underlying health conditions or have childcare or other caring responsibilities, the induction can be done remotely.
SNAs will not be expected to meet students or hold face-to-face meetings. The support is to be delivered remotely. This can either be done through working in an HSE office or by working at home. The HSE will abide by and respect the current public health regulations on social distancing. Where an SNA wishes to carry out this work at home this will be facilitated by the HSE, although regular contact with the HSE point of contact must be maintained.
The HSE has drafted a memo addressed to all SNAs explaining the details of the new service and the DES has answered the many questions raised by Fórsa. You can access the memo HERE and the HSE Service Plan HERE.
We appreciate that SNAs will have a range of questions and we have compiled a list of Frequently Asked Questions covering the main areas of discussion between Fórsa, the DES and the HSE you can view the list HERE.
We advise SNAs to try and complete the TTM vetting form, but if the online form remains closed please wait for TTM to contact you again. The next phase of the reassignment process will involve someone from the HSE making contact with you by email.
This is a new service and a new role for SNAs. The work can be delivered remotely through working at home, SNAs can attend an HSE office to carry out the work if they prefer and this needs to be discussed with the HSE point of contact. Some students will require a great deal of support whilst others may only need a quick call each day so the role will not be the same for all SNAs as it will be shaped by the needs of students and their families.
The reassignment will continue for as long as the Schools remain closed, high level discussions are underway on the revised leaving certificate examination timetable and the potential for all schools to re-open at some point in the near future, on a partial or complete basis, subject to public health advice. We hope to be able to distribute definite information on that issue within the next two weeks.
In the meantime please discuss this new role with the HSE when they contact you, SNAs can as always contact Fórsa with queries and we will issue you with appropriate advice.
This reassignment option allows SNAs to work with their students albeit in a modified or new role, SNAs can work safely, this work can be carried out at home, there is a need for an induction meeting and again this can be done remotely. The reassignment is not a perfect option or outcome but it does allow SNAs to play an important role in supporting vulnerable students and families through this extremely difficult period.
Finally we stress that no SNA will be reassigned to work as a healthcare assistant, and no SNA is being reassigned to work in HSE elderly care services.
These arrangements will be reviewed by Fórsa, the DES and the HSE on a regular basis, initially through direct engagement each week.
Please make sure you read the enclosed documents from the HSE and the Fórsa FAQs:
- HSE memo for SNAs, read HERE
- Read the HSE Service Plan HERE
- Read the Fórsa FAQ document HERE
Andy Pike, Fórsa Head of Education
Tuesday 21st April 2020
Fórsa members can contact their branch representative or email the union HERE.