Alliance writes to children and families minister about lack of tests for PVI providers
By Rachel Lawler
The Alliance has written an open letter to children and families minister Vicky Ford about the lack of home testing kits for PVI providers - including private and voluntary run pre-schools and nurseries and childminders.
Answering a Parliamentary Question from shadow early years minister Tulip Siddiq yesterday, Ford confirmed that the coronavirus test kits were given to schools with nurseries and local authority-run nursery schools.
Private and voluntary run nurseries, pre-schools and childminders have not been supplied with any coronavirus test kits to date. Recent reports have shown evidence that providers are struggling to access tests through the NHS Test and Trace system.
Alliance chief executive Neil Leitch wrote:
"I'm writing to you to express my deep concern and shock at the unfair and inconsistent approach that the government is taking to the provision of coronavirus home testing kits to educational settings.
"The Alliance has discussed the issue of kits for early years settings with Department for Education colleagues on a number of occasions, and were most recently advised that "at this stage, there is no further information on home testing kits for early years providers”. At the time, we expressed our anger and frustration that this vital support was being provided to primary schools, secondary schools and colleges, but not the early years sector.
"However, it has now emerged, further to your response to Parliamentary Question 91680, that initial testing kit supplies have in fact been provided to maintained nurseries, and that these settings are also able to order additional kits if needed.
"I can only assume that this discrepancy is the result of an erroneous oversight, rather than a deliberate decision on the part of government to exclude the private and voluntary early years sector from the provision of such critical resources during a global pandemic.
"You will no doubt already be aware of the growing reports of nurseries, pre-schools and childminding staff who are unable to access coronavirus tests as a result of nationwide shortages, resulting in practitioners and other staff being forced to self-isolate for much longer than is necessary and as a result, in many cases, settings having to temporarily close all together.
"You have expressed on numerous occasions your gratitude to the sector for their hard work and dedication during this crisis, but I'm sure you will appreciate that, in light of this completely unbalanced approach to testing kits at a time when we are entering a second wave of the pandemic, many PVI providers will feel completely undervalued, dismissed and let down by the government.
"As such, I ask that this issue will be addressed as a matter of utmost urgency, and that home testing kit supplies will be made available to all early years settings, not just those in the maintained sector, as quickly as possible.
"I appreciate that considerations will need to be given to the logistics of such a commitment, and I would be happy to discuss how the Alliance could support this process."