Labour Councillors share the concerns raised by the NEU, GMB and UNISON at the Government’s disregard for the health, wellbeing and safety of Early Years providers in this pandemic.
Labour’s lead on the Children, Young People & Skills Committee, Councillor John Allcock, has today written jointly with Committee Chair, Green Councillor Hannah Clare, to the Children’s Minister, urging the government to address the vital issues of testing and vaccination for staff who work with children and young people, from nursery through to college.
This follows our joint letter last month pressing the Government to provide Early Years providers with the financial support they desperately need.
The frustration of providers and their staff, who are placing themselves at risk of infection, is turning to disbelief that their health, wellbeing and safety are being ignored. The Government, throughout the pandemic, has consistently refused to apply the same criteria to early years settings as it has to schools, i.e. restricting attendance to vulnerable and critical worker children.
The Government appear to be ignoring the role that Early Years settings play in community transmission, especially given that social distancing between young children and adults is impossible to achieve and most other control measures, even some used in schools, cannot be implemented.
The funding arrangements we have previously questioned mean that many settings are effectively forced to comply with government policies, or they will not survive financially. They are having to choose between carrying out risk assessments to operate as safely as they can; or risking closure due to funding being withheld.
With regard to testing, there are still no facilities for early years staff, other than those in maintained nursery schools, to access regular testing. Secondary schools have on-site testing, primary schools have home-testing systems; nurseries have neither.
With regard to vaccination, the programme is inadequate for staff working with children who are at greater risk. The programme excludes early years settings that are not classified as ‘schools’ even where they are supporting children with Special Educational Needs and require adult support for intimate personal care, and where challenging behaviour necessitates physical intervention and dealing with oral and bodily fluids.
Labour’s Opposition Spokesperson for Children & Young People, Councillor John Allcock says:
“It is really concerning that early years providers appear to have been unfairly treated; they are not getting the financial support they need, and the safety of their staff is seemingly not a priority for this Government.
“I welcome the work of trade unions such as the NEU, GMB and UNISON in raising concerns about the lack of testing and vaccination available to nursery staff who are putting themselves at risk day-in and day-out.
“The Government urgently needs to ensure our key workers in childcare are receiving access to regular testing and are prioritised in the vaccination rollout. I have written jointly to the Minister making that case today and will continue to stand up for our frontline workers.”