Key workers are reportedly having to stay home because they cannot get access to childcare.
The National Day Nurseries Association says it estimates that only around 40-50% of nurseries in Wales are currently trying to stay open for key workers during the coronavirus pandemic, while the Government advice over childcare continues to be that key workers need to use nurseries.
The BBC is reporting that key workers are being forced to take time off work because they do not have access to childcare. One of the problems is that nurseries say it is not financially viable to stay open for small numbers of children. They also say staff need better protection from the coronavirus.
Purnima Tanuku, Chief Executive of National Day Nurseries Association (NDNA), said: “During this crisis it’s paramount that nurseries are supported financially to be able to stay open to provide childcare for key workers and vulnerable children.
“Many nurseries are managing to stay open despite all the challenges of having very little income and juggling staffing rotas. We have members who are running at losses of almost £1,000 a week to provide care for the small number of children they have.
“They deserve credit and the nation’s thanks for the work they are doing as their staff are risking their own health going to work so that doctors, nurses and other key workers can do their crucial jobs. Very young children cannot observe social distance and nursery workers often have little or no access to the kind of personal protective equipment they might need.
“Sadly, lots of nurseries simply cannot afford to open in the current climate. They don’t know how they can furlough staff that they might need to provide emergency cover or how they can cover fixed costs like rent and utilities with only a fraction of their usual children and income.
“NDNA is calling for more practical, emotional and financial support for nurseries and other private childcare providers. This includes access to the same protective and cleaning equipment that is being given to schools that are open, recognition of the work being done by childcare providers who are open or more support to cover lost income at this critical time as government funding only covers some of the costs.”
workingmums.co.uk has heard from many key workers who say their nursery is closed. They are being referred to their local authority to see if others are available, but some say access to further away nurseries makes things difficult. They also mention lack of availability of flexible childcare to cover their shifts and financial issues.
workingmums.co.uk has also asked the Department for Education several times for clarity over whether informal carers, such as younger, healthy grandparents, can care for children if there is no other option, but has received no direct response to this question. The Government guidance is that grandparents over 70 or who have underlying health issues should not babysit their grandchildren.
This is the latest response to a direct question about informal care that we received:
A Department for Education spokesperson said: “We have asked nurseries and other childcare providers to close except for the children of critical workers and vulnerable children, as part of our efforts to fight the spread of coronavirus.
“The government has put a range of measures in place to support providers including continuing to fund free entitlements even if children are not attending, a business rate holiday for private providers, and the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme to support workers.
“We are monitoring the availability of provision, including for NHS staff. If critical workers do not have access to their usual childcare place, they should contact their local authority to arrange an alternative.”
They added this background information: