A call has been made for the Government to deal with the issue of civil servants working from home because it is “not working for people who rely on public services”.
Independent TD Michael McNamara claimed in the Dáil that nobody was answering phones when people ring seeking assistance.
He called on Minster for Education Norma Foley and Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney to raise the issue at Cabinet, as he highlighted concerns about the lack of access for some pupils to the school transport service.
The Clare TD, who is chair of the Oireachtas Covid-19 committee said a number of parents only found out five days before the return of schools that their children were not entitled to a place on the school transport programme.
But when they found out “they are unable to contact anybody”.
He said “they are told to ring a certain number and when they ring it nobody answers.
“In the unlikely event that somebody does answer, they are transferred to somebody else.”
Mr McNamara highlighted the case of a parent with three school-going children in his constituency who previously had access to the bus service and had been denied school bus places.
He said the parent turned up at the Bus Éireann office on Tuesday “and was told everyone was working from home. That is a common problem across the civil service”.
The Ministers for Education and Foreign Affairs were in the chamber as he referred to civil servants working from home and he called for them to bring the matter to Cabinet.
“Working from home is not really working for people who rely on public services.
“It may be working for civil servants but it is not working for people who rely on their services and cannot get through to someone at the end of a telephone line.”
He said “these are ordinary members of the public who pay their taxes and hope to access services”, adding that “we need to look at how working from home is actually working”.
Mr McNamara said the problems with access to school buses meant that parents were now carpooling “which means that children from different families are sharing cars by necessity”. That was “hardly what the Department of Education desires to bring about in these times when all of these precautions are in place”.
Independent TD Danny Healy-Rae said there were 140 children in his constituency who previously had tickets for transport but could not now get them.
He asked if the Minister was achieving the 50 per cent capacity reduction on buses to meet the two-metre social distancing requirement by “not giving children the tickets they have always got”.
Rejecting Mr Healy-Rae’s claim, Ms Foley said “all those who were eligible and had paid on time were given their tickets. Where there was extra capacity, concessionary tickets were made available”.
A review of bus routes was under way to meet the public health guidelines of 50 per cent capacity and “where there is additional capacity after that, the concessionary tickets will be made available to those who have paid on time”.