Government urged to vaccinate all nursery and childcare workers as part of the 13.2 million ‘priority’ people

Kathy Oxtoby
Thursday, January 7, 2021

Thousands of nursery places in jeopardy by the spring if Government fails to vaccinate all ‘essential’ nursery and childcare workers, early years leaders warn.

'Mass testing of early years workers must be a priority'.
'Mass testing of early years workers must be a priority'.

Early years leaders have urged the Government to vaccinate all nursery and childcare workers as part of the 13.2 million ‘priority’ people.

Leaders want a valid explanation as to why the early years sector is not being prioritised after society's most vulnerable groups and NHS workers have been given the jab.

They also voiced concerns that nurseries and childcare settings have been warned that if they don’t stay open they will not receive the funding towards their children’s funded 15 hours or the funding for the most disadvantaged two-year-olds – putting thousands of nursery places in jeopardy by the spring.

Government must vaccinate all nursery and childcare workers
June O’Sullivan, CEO of London Early Years Foundation (LEYF), a charitable social enterprise which operates 39 nurseries across the capital, said:Now that nurseries can stay open during the new lockdown, the Government must vaccinate all nursery and childcare workers as part of the 13.2 million ‘priority' people – along with immediate access to free testing, currently available to other essential workers. 

‘So far, ministers have failed to give any valid explanation as to why the early years is not being prioritised after society's most vulnerable groups and NHS workers have been given the jab.’

Ms O’Sullivan warned that funding from local authorities for the most vulnerable children could be under threat if nurseries were forced to close because staff were off sick with the virus or needing to self-isolate, or if parents are too nervous to bring their children to nursery.

‘We saw this during the first lockdown when some of the children living in our most deprived communities kept children indoors for weeks and needed to be coaxed into bringing their children back to nursery. This is deeply concerning as thousands of nursery places will be in jeopardy by the Spring – and thousands of valuable early years learning lost.’

She added: ‘Nurseries are the lifeline in keeping people in work and the economy afloat, which is why this essential service must be fully supported by the Government.’

Purnima Tanuku, chief executive of National Day Nurseries Association (NDNA), said the organisation had backed the Prioritise teachers, school and childcare staff for Covid-19 vaccination petition – which currently has nearly 350,000 signatories - and ‘really welcome that this will now be debated by MPs in Parliament’.

She said nurseries ‘want to stay open to support children and families at this time and have done a huge amount to make their settings Covid-safe’.

‘However, we all know it’s impossible to socially distance from babies and toddlers. Early years staff also deal with a lot of close personal care, from changing nappies to dealing with upset children.

‘Early years settings are now the only ones in the education sector fully open to all children. That’s why we’re highlighting the need to prioritise this sector for the vaccine as soon as is practically possible.’

Neil Leitch, Early Years Alliance chief executive, said it was ‘astounding’ that, despite heightened lockdown measures and the impact this will clearly have on the demand for childcare places, ‘the Government has yet to reverse its decision to remove vital early years funding support’.

‘With many parents now inevitably making difficult decisions about whether to access early years care, it's clear that Government must commit to both maintaining spring term funding support, and offering support to those providers suffering a loss of private parental fees, if the sector is to have any hope of surviving this difficult period.’

He said equally concerning was ‘the Government's refusal to provide the practical protection that nurseries, pre-schools and childminders need to operate safely’.

‘We know that early years providers simply cannot operate without close contact with children and in many cases, parents and other practitioners. As such, it is vital that Government not only provides specific evidence around transmission of the new strain of coronavirus in early years settings, but crucially, makes plans for mass testing and vaccination of all early years workers as a matter of priority,’ he said.

 

 

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