This is a letter to my MP based on a template provided by the Early Years Alliance, with my own views and tweaks added.
Join the campaign to support and protect the Early Years by sending your own letter. The EYA template can be found HERE
Re: Help protect the early years sector in England
I am a Registered Childminder, one of many Early Years workers providing a vital service supporting parents and carers to continue to do their jobs while providing high-quality early education for the children in my care.
I am writing to you about my deep concerns for both the safety and financial viability of the early education and childcare sector in England during the current national lockdown and beyond.
As you will know, the government has announced that nurseries, pre-schools and childminders in England are expected to remain open to all children at a time when all schools have been instructed to close to all but the children of critical workers and vulnerable children. Government however has failed to follow this through with appropriate safeguards for the sector, leaving us vulnerable, not just to the disease, but also the financial impact of lockdown.
Young children cannot and should not be expected to social distance. Close contact is a necessary feature of the care of young children. Touch and affection are essential for children’s emotional development and well-being, and intimate care to meet physical needs is also an integral part of looking after a young child.
While ministers have argued that early years settings are ‘low-risk environments’, the government has so far failed to provide any specific evidence about the risk implications of the new variant of Covid-19 in early years settings among both children and adults. It also neglects to account for the number of children who are asymptomatic, or whose parents have chosen to isolate symptomatic children rather than put them through the trauma of testing. Children in themselves may be low risk, but just as in schools, they act as vectors for transmission and their close contact within a setting and inevitable mixing means they are potentially spreading the virus to their families, staff and staff families, and those of registered Childminders too.
In addition, as you may be aware home testing kits for asymptomatic testing have now been made available to all primary schools, secondary schools and colleges, as well as maintained nursery schools and classes, while private and voluntary providers, including Childminders, have been told that we will instead be given 'priority' access to community testing centres, despite many of these only being open during working hours and so inaccessible to the childcare workforce, already working long and often extra hours. The only alternative is for already short staffed and stretched settings to release staff during working hours to visit test centres, which may result in them having to restrict numbers in order to maintain ratios, or even to have to close, especially in the case of Childminders. Childminders are further disadvantaged, being unable to register on the priority portal, due to being self-employed.
This is grossly unfair treatment and will result in many early years providers being unable to access asymptomatic testing at a time when we have been asked to remain open to all families and are doing all we can to stop the spread of the virus
Leading early years organisations the Early Years Alliance, Professional Association for Childcare and Early Years (PACEY) and the National Day Nurseries Association (NDNA) have jointly called for the government to take the following steps to ensure that early years and childcare providers can remain open safely:
• provide clear scientific evidence on the risk implications of staying open for early years and childcare practitioners, including data on transmission rates and other key risk indicators
• prioritise those working in early years and childcare for Covid-19 vaccinations
• roll out mass asymptomatic testing at all early years and childcare settings, including Childminders, via the provision of home-testing kits
• reinstate early entitlement funding support for settings who have been forced to close or have seen a fall in the demand for funded places
• introduce targeted funding for providers reliant on private income who have suffered from falls in parental demand
As my parliamentary representative, I am asking you to speak on my behalf and call on the Treasury and the DfE to commit to implementing the above recommendations as a matter of urgency, and ensure that all hard-working providers in our constituency have the practical and financial support we need to continuing delivering the care and education that is so vital to our community.
If you would like to find out more about our situation, please get in touch.
My name is Rebecca.