Childcare organisations have issued an urgent call for greater protection for their employees and funding for those who are suffering from a fall in demand due to Covid.
Early years organisations have issued a joint call for the government to take urgent steps to protect the safety and financial sustainability of those working in nurseries, pre-schools and childminding settings in England.
The move by the Early Years Alliance, the Professional Association for Childcare and Early Years (PACEY) and the National Day Nurseries Association (NDNA) comes after the government decision to ask early years settings in England to remain open for all children during national lockdown while instructing schools to close for face-to-face teaching except for key workers children and vulnerable children.
As part of the new joint #ProtectEarlyYears campaign, the three organisations, which collectively represent around 50,000 childcare providers, are calling on the government to prioritise those working in early years and childcare for Covid-19 vaccinations, roll-out mass asymptomatic testing at all early years and childcare settings and reinstate early entitlement funding support for settings who have been forced to close or have seen a fall in the demand for funded places. They also want targeted funding for providers reliant on private income who have suffered from falls in parental demand, particularly in light of the new lockdown and fears about the new variant of Covid.
The call came just before publication of new Department for Education statistics which show that as of 7th January, the number of children taking up early years places in England was just 37% of normal term-time attendance and just 52% of what the government would normally expect in the spring term specifically. Campaigners say that while some councils are continuing to provide funding for children who aren’t currently taking up their childcare place, others are refusing to do so. Moreover, providers are also losing private parental fees.
Early years organisations are also calling on the government to provide clear scientific evidence on the risk implications of staying open for early years and childcare practitioners, particularly in light of the increased transmissibility of the new variant of Covid-19, including data on current transmission rates in early years and childcare settings.
Neil Leitch, Chief Executive of the Early Years Alliance, said: “It is simply not acceptable that, at the height of a global pandemic, early years providers are being asked to work with no support, no protection and no clear evidence that is safe for them to do so…Ministers cannot simultaneously ask providers to stay open but take no action to ensure they can do so safely and sustainably. It’s time for the government to step up and give the early years sector the support it needs and deserves.”
They are also seeking clarification on how private nurseries can use the furlough scheme after several tweaks in the guidelines. Currently, it says that providers should factor in lost public funding as well as money they receive from parents ie furlough the proportion of their salary bill that is equivalent to private income that had not yet returned plus lost government funding as a portion of their total normal income.