The SIPTU Big Start National Committee has said that the introduction of the Wage Subsidy Childcare Scheme (WSCS), which was announced yesterday (Thursday, 16th April), will greatly assist in maintaining a skilled workforce in the Early Years sector. The WSCS will work in conjunction with Covid-19 Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme operated by the Revenue Commissioners. Jointly, the schemes will cover the cost of employees’ wages from a minimum of €350 per week to a maximum of €586. Services will also receive a payment equivalent to 15% of payroll costs or €300 per week, whichever is greater.  During the operation of the scheme parents will not be charged fees. SIPTU Head of Organising, Darragh O’Connor, said: “The new scheme was the focus of an emergency meeting of the SIPTU Big Start National Committee held by teleconference yesterday evening. Prior to the Covid-19 emergency the childcare sector was in the middle of a staffing crisis with an annual turnover of workers in full day services of up to 40%. This was largely due to issues resulting from low pay. As childcare professionals were being laid off with no pay due to the Covid-19 emergency, there was the possibility many would seek alternative employment and not return to their profession when services re-open. This would have compounded the staffing crisis and risked the sustainability of services. The new scheme will help Early Years educators and providers weather the crisis.” Early Years educator, Deborah Reynolds, said: “This scheme allows for educators to be retained on the payroll of services. It should ensure that a qualified and skilled workforce is available to the sector when services recommence. This is a positive development and goes some way towards acknowledging the importance of Early Years educators and the childcare sector.” Early Years provider, Roberta Hines, said: “While the scheme will help childcare workers, some concerns remain, particularly for services which are fully state funded through the Early Childhood Care and Education programme. The SIPTU Big Start National Committee will continue to engage with the Department of Children and Youth Affairs regarding access to a sustainability fund for the services struggling to survive through the current Covid-19 crisis.” SIPTU is the union for the Early Years sector and with more than 6,000 members employed providing childcare services.