On Tuesday I published a very long (too long!) blog about the prospect of Childminders and other settings preparing to reopen from 1st June, as per DfE guidance.
By 6.30pm this blog was already out of date and plans in disarray, following a statement from the DfE published by Nursery World Magazine, the Early Years Alliance and PACEY. The statement explained that in actual fact, Childminders (and nannies) could actually reopen the following morning, if they met certain conditions:
This casual treatment, ignoring previous, unambiguous guidance setting 1st June as the earliest date to reopen shows a complete lack of understanding and respect for the Childminding profession. I am appalled that the government think it is in any way acceptable to U-turn on such an important step. It is unfair and unrealistic to suggest that Childminders might reopen with less than 24-hour’s notice. Time is needed to plan, prepare and consult: A risk assessment to consider safety and hygiene practice is required; policies and procedures updated; space and resources assessed and reorganised; contracts revised; and the views and concerns of parents and children (& in some cases staff) taken into consideration. On top of this, if restricted to care for a child or children from just one household, the childminder will be operating at significant financial loss, potentially earning less than £2 or £3 per hour, which is not viable.
I appreciate that a number of Childminders are already in this position, having remained open to provide vital childcare services to front-line staff and other critical workers and for vulnerable children. I applaud their efforts, they are doing an heroic job, and those facing reopening for the first time can learn much from these colleagues going forward. The issue is not around being open already versus re-opening; it is about reopening at incredibly short notice, having been given different, conflicting information over the course of three days.
In terms of fully re-opening there are valid concerns. Many of the Childminders already open have been operating at reduced capacity (and reduced income) but if the June 1st date goes ahead as planned (we won’t know until 28th May which is another issue entirely), potentially Childminders can have their full EYFS quota plus whatever number of over-8s permitted by their insurance capacity. This increases the risk proportionately, as the Childminder will now be coming into contact with a greater number of people. Childminders are in the unique position of having to accept people into their homes at a time when social distancing rules ban this in all other situations. Childminders can accept other people’s children into their homes and interact with their parents but cannot accept their non-resident children, or their grandchildren; a heart wrenching situation for many.
Childminders are putting themselves and their families at increased risk of contracting Covd-19 every time they work. It is simply not possibly to clean a home-based environment to clinical standards, and this is not appropriate, nor is (we are told) use of PPE unless we have a child showing symptoms. We cannot realistically exclude our families from our childminding environment, something that was seen to be being suggested by Ofsted on their Facebook page, before they too retracted and revised their statement, suggesting that all along they had meant excluding the household members of minded children not our own. We cannot and should not socially distance from the children in our care.
Yesterday morning I was interviewed by Judith Burns at the BBC, outlining these issues, part of which appeared in an article published on their website:
This morning I appeared on live TV on BBC Breakfast and was asked about my plans regarding reopening. This took me well outside my comfort zone and I have been overwhelmed by the many positive comments I have received from people who saw it.
https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/m000j503/breakfast-14052020 appears at 6.51am
I am also quoted in an article published by Nursery World yesterday (you need to sign up for a free account to read this)
I have shared these pieces extensively on social media, not to self-promote but to try get the message regarding what has happened over the past few days circulated as widely as possible; to get the voice of Childminders heard – not that I am so presumptuous as to assume I speak for all childminders!
I hope I have been successful in my aim.
Having now had the opportunity to express my concerns, frustration and anger at the way Childminders have been dealt with by Government this week I am now attempting to achieve a state of acceptance and some degree of positivity going forward.
I am remaining closed for the time being and taking this time to plan and prepare for a hopeful opening on the 1st of June. I am looking forward to seeing my minded children and their families again and I WILL be hugging the children (if they want me to)!
I am not planning on a move to Hollywood in the foreseeable future...
My name is Rebecca.