Childminders reopen for all children without clear government guidance and support
Thousands of childminders and group early years settings are returning to work with early years children today, yet they have not been provided with clear guidance or support from the Government to do so safely.
Outstanding issues such as collecting children from school playgrounds, taking children on outings, transporting children in vehicles, provision of PPE and reassurance that transitional funding will be available if settings have to close to isolate for 14 days or more is leaving many providers confused and disheartened.
What they have received is pages of guidance from DfE which early years experts such as Cathy Nutbrown (a professor of education at the University of Sheffield) label “confusing, contradictory or unworkable” and further conflicting statements from Local Authorities and Ofsted.
It is also very worrying that there are so many Local Authorities u-turning at the last moment and advising providers to stay closed and media stories frightening parents into keeping their children at home, at a time when the Government advises providers to reopen their doors.
Childcare.co.uk have listened to member concerns about how the early years sector will stay sustainable if parents stay at home and children are not brought to settings, bearing in mind these are settings where staff have now been taken off furlough and further financial investments have been made to prepare for re-opening.
The early years sector has been in the midst of financial chaos for many years due to Government underfunding for the early years entitlement. It is now on the brink of a sustainability crisis that could see thousands of childminders and group providers closing their doors forever if they do not receive urgent additional support.
The feedback from our members is very clear: Either parents need to receive government advice that childcare is safe and providers need support from Government and their Local Authorities , or providers need to receive extra funding to stay sustainable until those messages can be confidently delivered.
Richard Conway, CEO & Founder of Childcare.co.uk said:
"It is simply ridiculous that childminders are being asked to open for business without full and necessary government guidance in order to keep them and the children in their care safe.
"How can it possibly be unsafe for one household to invite a child from another household to come and play at their house, whilst the government are suggesting it is safe for childminders to invite children from as many as 6 or more different households into their homes at the same time, without any social distancing or PPE?
"Childminders are working on the frontline in order that the government can restart the economy, yet the support and guidance from the government is woefully inadequate and we call upon senior government ministers to take immediate action to resolve these important, unanswered questions."
Last week Childcare.co.uk sent an open letter to government ministers urging for further guidance and financial support for the early years sector.
The main issues:
Dropping off and collecting children from school
Many childminders are tasked with dropping-off and picking-up children from school. As we reported last month, some schools have banned childminders from their premises yet the DfE guidance does not state childminders cannot attend schools.
The DfE guidance states:
"Childminding settings should consider how they can work with parents and carers to agree how best to manage any necessary journeys, for example pick-ups and drop-offs at schools, to reduce the need for a provider to travel with groups of children."
However, it is usually impossible for childminders not to attend schools without taking other children in their care with them.
Taking children on outings
Childminders regularly take children outside of their premises as part of their normal work, as permitted in the EYFS. This may involve a short walk around the local area or a visit to a park or other outdoor space. The DfE guidance fails to mention whether or not this is currently allowed.
Transporting children in vehicles
Childminders often transport children in their care in vehicles. This could be so they can travel to a school or nursery to pick-up other children or to visit a local park or other outdoor space. The DfE guidance fails to mention whether or not childminders can currently take children in their care in vehicles.
Provision of PPE
The government advises that face coverings are recommended if we travel to, for example, a supermarket in order to help protect the spread of the virus. Childminding settings have children from several different households, yet the DfE guidelines state:
"The majority of staff in childcare settings will not require PPE, beyond what they would normally need for their work, even if they are not always able to maintain distance of 2 metres from others."
Some local authorities have provided free PPE for childminders, whilst others have not. How can childminders be kept safe if they do not have access to free or affordable PPE?
Fear of loss of revenue due to being forced to isolate for 14 days
Should a child or staff member in a childminding setting test positive for Covid-19, the DfE guidelines state:
"If the child or staff member tests positive, the rest of their immediate group within their setting should be sent home and advised to self-isolate for 14 days. For childminding settings, this applies to everyone attending your setting who came into contact with the child or staff member."
This means that childminders would be forced to completely close their businesses for 14 days and they lawfully are unlikely to be able to continue to charge parents during this period.
This will cause childminders to lose revenue and they could face on-going, repeated periods of forced closure. How will childminders be compensated for such a situation?
Lack of social distancing
We are all told by the government that social distancing of 2 metres is required between members of other households at all times in order to prevent the spread of the virus.
However, the DfE guidelines state:
" ... it is not expected that children and staff within a group will keep 2 metres apart"
How can childminders be kept safe if social distancing in their settings in not adhered to?
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