Northern Ireland Executive ministers and their officials have over the past 24 hours been involved in a number of initiatives and critical decisions relating to the Coronavirus emergency.
Up to £17million in financial support has been made available to ferry operators to keep supply chains open during the COVID-19 emergency, Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon announced today.
The financial package, which is being jointly funded by the Executive and the UK Government’s Department for Transport, will assist for a two month period ferry operators who provide critical routes for food, medicines and other essential supplies.
Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon said: “Throughout this crisis I have been working closely with ferry operators to keep our necessary goods flowing and I wish to extend my personal thanks to these companies, for their determination to maintain our critical routes during this difficult period.
“Today we have been able to secure supplies to this part of our island, the impact of which cannot be underestimated and I am pleased to play my part. There’s more work to do - and I remain committed and focused to doing all I can to secure safeguards and support for people across Northern Ireland in the days ahead.”
The financial support will help Stena Line, P&O and Seatruck to maintain five key routes - Warrenpoint to Heysham; Belfast to Liverpool, Cairnryan and Heysham; and Larne to Cairnryan. The Northern Ireland Executive has agreed to cover 40% of these costs which are estimated between £10.6 and £16.6million.
Furloughed workers who are entitled to statutory family-related payments will not lose out during the COVID-19 pandemic, Economy Minister Diane Dodds and Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey insisted today.
Changes to the regulations mean that from tomorrow (25 April) people who are entitled to Statutory Maternity Pay, Statutory Paternity Pay, Statutory Adoption Pay and Statutory Shared Parental Pay will not be disadvantaged if they are furloughed.
Minister Dodds said: “I have been keen to do whatever I can to protect workers during the current crisis. The regulation changes that I have approved mean that those who are entitled to Statutory Paternity Pay, Statutory Adoption Pay and Statutory Shared Parental Pay will have the amounts calculated based on their full pay and not the 80% furlough rate.”
Minister Hargey added: “The urgent regulations that I have approved changes how normal weekly earnings are calculated, to ensure that women who are receiving reduced pay as a result of being placed on furlough by their employer could be considered as receiving full pay for the purposes of Statutory Maternity Pay and Maternity Pay. This will mean a woman’s entitlement to Statutory Maternity Pay will not be affected.”
A new learning resource was also announced by Minister Dodds for furloughed workers and others who have lost their job as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Department for the Economy has partnered with the Open University (OU) to offer a range of free training courses to help people across Northern Ireland improve their skills and wellbeing, covering digital skills, employability and essential skills. The options include digital literacy, cybersecurity, entrepreneurship, leadership, communication, maths and English.
Free courses are also available online through Northern Ireland’s other universities and colleges and a range of other providers.
Minister Dodds said: “These courses are free for everyone and provide an opportunity for individuals to use their time at home to prepare for the future. Improving the digital skills of our workforce will also enhance our competitiveness and increase productivity in the long term.”
Health Minister Robin Swann and Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey announced the establishment of a free remote interpreting service for British Sign Language (BSL) and Irish Sign Language (ISL) users to help them access NHS111 and health and social care services during the COVID-19 emergency.
The temporary remote sign language interpreting service is provided by Interpreter Now, who provide similar access to NHS services across England, Scotland, and Wales and has two elements:
- A Video Relay Service - enabling Deaf people to telephone any Health and Social Care service via a remote BSL or ISL interpreter from da number of locations. The Deaf person contacts the interpreter via the service app, using their smartphone/ tablet/ computer or via a secure video link using a computer. Once they are connected, the interpreter telephones the Health and Social Care service provider on the Deaf person’s behalf.
- A Video Remote Interpreting service – enabling Deaf people to communicate with a Health and Social Care professional in person, via an online BSL or ISL video interpreter. The Deaf person and the Health and Social Care service provider can be in the same location, while the interpreter is online via secure video link on a screen in the office (e.g. a tablet, smart phone, or computer).
The temporary service, funded by the Department of Health and Department for Communities, has been established in partnership with the Health and Social Care Board and would provide the Deaf Community with access to all health and social care services and NHS111 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey announced the 2020 Líofa Gaeltacht Bursary scheme will be rolled over into 2021 following the cancellation of this year’s Gaeltacht Summer Courses for Irish language students as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Minister confirmed: “Successful applicants from the 2020 scheme will be given the chance to attend the summer colleges next year instead. Deposits will be paid to Irish Language colleges in the current year in order to secure available places. This will also help the colleges to meet their administrative costs. I have asked my officials to explore options for further supporting the learning of Irish through Líofa and through partnership work with Foras.”
Notes to editors:
- The Northern Ireland Executive is producing a regular digest of key initiatives and decisions that have been undertaken by ministers and their Departments relating to the Coronavirus crisis.
- Members of the public are encouraged to check regularly the Public Health Agency, NI Direct, NI Executive and government departmental websites and social media channels for public health advice on how to prevent the spread of the Covid-19 Coronavirus.
- Current information and advice in relation to Covid-19 can be found on the PHA website at: www.publichealth.hscni.net/news/covid-19-coronavirus
- Patients who have a persistent cough, or high temperature, together with any other members of their household must self-isolate according to the guidance on the PHA website at: www.publichealth.hscni.net/news/covid-19-coronavirus#what-should-i-do-if-i-think-i-have-coronavirus
- The Department of Health NI has launched a new Covid-19 NI information app to provide people with immediate advice and links to vital trusted information. The app will be updated as the pandemic evolves. Download the Covid-19 NI app - search for Covid-19 NI on the Apple app store and Covid-19 NI on google play.
- The online version of the app is hosted on a new website https://covid-19.hscni.net.
- A COVID-19 statistical dash board can also be viewed on the Department of Health’s website at: https://app.powerbi.com/view?r=eyJrIjoiMWFhZDgzZDYtMTE4Yi00MTBjLWIzYmQtMTZhYzc1MGEyMTk1IiwidCI6IjljOWEzMGRlLWQ4ZDctNGFhNC05NjAwLTRiZTc2MjVmZjZjNSIsImMiOjh9
- The Framework for the Wellbeing of Health and Social Care staff can be accessed at the following link: www.publichealth.hscni.net/sites/default/files/2020-04/HSC_Regional%20Staff%20Wellbeing%20Framework.pdf and is based on evidence and best practice guidance and is informed by The British Psychological Society Guidance Paper.
- Psychological Support Help Lines will be staffed by psychologists and psychological therapists who can provide appropriate support throughout the surge phase of the crisis.
- The Helplines will be made available by each Trust to all their staff, to all GP Practices in their area, to all Ambulance staff based in their area and to all independent sector care providers in their area. In this way support is offered to all parts of the system throughout surge.
- The Framework document is supported by resources which are available on the PHA website: www.publichealth.hscni.net/covid-19-coronavirus/guidance-hsc-staff/staff-health-and-wellbeing
- If you are in distress or despair at any time including the Covid-19 crisis, the 24/7 Lifeline helpline is available on 0808 808 8000 where trained counsellors are available to help you.
- Anyone wishing to volunteer for health and social care support roles can do so via: www.hscworkforceappeal.co.uk/.
- The Freephone COVID-19 Community Helpline can be accessed by telephone on 0808 802 0020; email email@example.com or text ACTION to 81025. It is available 7 days a week, 9am to 5pm.
- Statistics on weekly deaths registered in Northern Ireland can be accessed on NISRA’s website at: www.nisra.gov.uk/publications/weekly-deaths
- Volunteer Now has launched a new online campaign #HelpEachOther for those who wish to volunteer for COVID-19 related opportunities and for those organisations which require the support of volunteers to deliver their services to the most in need. Further information is available at: www.volunteernow.co.uk
- A list of schools which are open for educational supervision is available on the Department of Education website: www.education-ni.gov.uk/publications/schools-open-supervised-learning-key-workers-children-and-vulnerable-children.
- A link to the guidance on schools clustering is available here: www.education-ni.gov.uk/guidance-schools-cluster-arrangements
- Forms for those applying to provide supervision to vulnerable children and the children of key workers can be accessed from the Department of Education website using the following link: http://apps.education-ni.gov.uk/appc19vol/default.aspx
- Information on the full range of support for businesses during the COVID-19 emergency is available at: www.nibusinessinfo.co.uk/campaign/coronavirus-updates-support-your-business
- Information on the Department for Economy and Open University digital training courses available can be accessed at: www.nidirect.gov.uk/articles/online-training-support.
- To find out more about this free service and to connect to a remote video interpreter please go to www.interpreternow.co.uk/nhs111ni.
- The temporary remote sign language interpreting service is provided by Interpreter Now, who provide similar access to NHS services across England, Scotland, and Wales. The service includes two elements:
Video Relay Service: This enables Deaf people to telephone any Health and Social Care service via a remote BSL or ISL interpreter. The Deaf person, the interpreter, and the Health and Social Care service provider can all be in different locations. The Deaf person contacts the interpreter via the service app, using their smartphone/ tablet/ computer, or via a secure video link using a computer. Once they are connected, the interpreter telephones the Health and Social Care service provider on the Deaf person’s behalf.
Video Remote Interpreting service: This enables Deaf people to communicate with a Health and Social Care professional in person, via an online BSL or ISL video interpreter. The Deaf person and the Health and Social Care service provider can be in the same location, while the interpreter is online via secure video link on a screen in the office (e.g. a tablet, smart phone, or computer).
- To ensure immediate access to telephone services at this time the Video Relay System will be introduced first, with the Video Remote Interpreting Service following within the coming weeks.
- Media enquiries should be directed to the relevant department using the following email addresses. Out of office hours contact the Duty Press Officer on 028 9037 8110.
- The Executive Office: Press.Office@executiveoffice-ni.gov.uk;
- Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs: PressOffice.Group@daera-ni.gov.uk;
- Department for Communities: Press.Office@communities-ni.gov.uk;
- Department of Education: Press.Office@education-ni.gov.uk;
- Department for the Economy: DfE.PressOffice@economy-ni.gov.uk;
- Department of Finance: firstname.lastname@example.org;
- Department for Infrastructure: Press.Office@infrastructure-ni.gov.uk;
- Department of Health: PressOffice@health-ni.gov.uk;
- Department of Justice: Press.Office@justice-ni.x.gsi.gov.uk
- Physical proof of status should be offered to EU citizens 15 September 2021
- Award success for Executive’s Covid public information campaign 13 September 2021
- Givan and O’Neill congratulate All-Ireland winners Tyrone 11 September 2021
- Appointment of Mr Justice Mark Horner to the NI Judicial Appointments Commission (NIJAC) 08 September 2021