Three leading early-years organisations have joined forces to launch a campaign for enhanced safety measures for the sector, as it continues to offer its services through the latest national lockdown.
The Early Years Alliance, PACEY and NDNA want early years providers who have been asked to remain open to receive increased government support. They urged the government to:
· prioritise those working in the early years and childcare sector for Covid-19 vaccinations
· roll-out mass asymptomatic testing to all early years and childcare settings
· 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
Prioritising Covid-19 vaccinations for childcare staff and teachers was due to be debated in Parliament on January 11, following a petition which had been signed by more than 350,000 people. The government has consistently argued that early-years settings are “low-risk environments’, but the three organisations argue that it has failed to provide any specific evidence about the rates of transmission of the new variant of COVID-19 in settings, either for children or adults.
They want clear scientific evidence on the risk implications of staying open for early-years and childcare practitioners, including data on current transmission rates in settings.
Commenting on the #ProtectEarlyYears initiative, 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.
“We know how vital access to early education and care is to many families, but it cannot be right to ask the early years workforce to put themselves at risk. That is why it is vital that the government takes the urgent steps needed to safeguard those working in the sector, particularly mass testing and priority access to vaccinations.
“With many providers seeing a huge fall in the demand for places, if nurseries and childminders are to have any hope of being able to remain open in the long term, it is also vital that the government provides the necessary financial support, both for those reliant on ‘free entitlement’ funding, and those reliant on private parental income, to enable settings to remain viable.”
Leitch concluded: “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.”
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