This week in the Seanad, I raised the unacceptable delays in paying Front-line staff the Pandemic Special Recognition Payment of €1,000 approved by Government in January 2022.
The pandemic special recognition payment was agreed by Cabinet in January 2022 in recognition of the front-line workers across our State who did such valiant work during Covid. The Finance Act ensured that the €1,000 payment was tax-free. There was also a recognition of a special bank holiday on 18 March last year. For a long number of months, there have been concerns that people have not been paid the €1,000, which is the case. The list of people entitled to the payment includes healthcare assistants, support and ambulance staff, consultants, midwives, medical laboratory staff, health and social professionals, non-consultant hospital doctors, swabbers, vaccinators and home help and care staff. This list is not exhaustive.
I have come across a number of people affected by this, in particular those who worked through Aramark, a company based in England that has offices in Dublin. It provides food service and uniform facilities in hospitals, universities and schools. The HSE has identified Aramark as a possible employer of front-line workers who may be eligible for the payment. Those workers, including those working in University Hospital Galway who are employed through Aramark, have not yet been paid. Home care staff in nursing homes have not been paid.
What is happening is not good enough. Those to whom I refer are entitled to this money. In many cases, they need the money but it has not been paid. Aramark has, belatedly, sent on forms to staff in University Hospital Galway in the past week or so who worked to provide food for patients every morning, lunchtime and evening. I ask the Leader to contact the Minister for Health and ask him to encourage companies such as Aramark to expedite payment of this money to all eligible staff. This is going on too long. Staff are entitled to this money and, as I said, the majority of them need this money. It is an issue I have come across in Galway and I am sure it is relevant in other parts of the country as well.