The total funding allocated for Northern Ireland’s emergency response to the coronavirus pandemic now stands at £933m.
The NI Executive has agreed further allocations of nearly £300m, on top of the £634.8m already allocated.
Finance Minister Conor Murphy outlined how the money was being used.
Mr Murphy said: “These allocations will help ensure our health service receives the funding it needs, protect vulnerable people, and support business.”
The latest funding allocations include:
- £150m – set aside to purchase Personal Protection Equipment for healthcare and other frontline workers
- £65m – for the Department of Health to help fight Covid-19
- £15.3m - to support the most vulnerable in society, including funding a weekly food box service for over 10,000 people, grants for older people, support for the homeless, and further interventions
- £12m - for emergency childcare provision for key workers, while an additional £0.4m supports food provision for vulnerable young people
- £4m – to help the PSNI maintain critical services
- £1.5m - to support the fishing industry
The Finance Minister said: “I am keen that further support is targeted at businesses and workers that have fallen through the gaps in the initiatives announced so far.
“That is why the Executive has agreed to hold aside an additional £40m for business support interventions.”
Mr Murphy added: “In addition to the Covid-19 funding, departments will be reviewing their own budgets to ensure everything possible is done to support our health service, vulnerable people, and businesses during this crisis.”
Among the measures outlined in the £12m package to support the provision of childcare for the families of key workers are:
- a bespoke Approved Home Childcarer Scheme aimed at enabling key workers to have their childcare needs met in their own homes
- enhanced support for registered childminders who provide childcare for key workers and vulnerable children
- support for registered daycare settings to remain open for key workers and vulnerable children in locations where key worker parents need them most, and for settings forced to close
- childcare advice and guidance for parents who are key workers, including a helpline
- advice and guidance for registered settings and providers
Education Minister Peter Weir said: “Our starting position remains unchanged.
“Where it is possible to do so, children should be cared for in their own homes.
“Schools, pre-school education settings, registered daycare facilities, and childminders should only be providing care for the children of key workers and vulnerable children.
“These new measures will sit alongside the support being provided by educational settings for children of key workers and vulnerable children.”
Health Minister Robin Swann said: “Registered childcare provision, pre-school education settings and schools are safe and nurturing environments for children.
“However, we must ensure that these settings are safe in current circumstances and are following public health advice.”
He added: “We acknowledge that a number of daycare and afterschool care settings have already closed, some in response to falling demand, insufficient staffing levels, or difficulties in meeting public health guidance, particularly in relation to social distancing requirements.
“My department, in collaboration with the Department of Education, has been working to develop proposals which will meet the needs of our key workers. This includes support for parents, childminders and daycare settings.
“Now, more than ever we must support our Health and Social Care staff and other key workers who are on the frontline in our fight against Covid-19.”
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