Early years sector calls for home testing kits in England
By Rachel Lawler
The Alliance, alongside NDNA and PACEY, has called on the government to follow the Welsh government and make Lateral Flow Devices (LFDs) for Covid-19 testing available to all early years providers at home.
The Welsh government will be supplying all registered providers with LFDs as well as a small supply of PPE free of charge. This will allow for asymptomatic testing twice a week at home.
The tests will be voluntary, but providers are strongly encouraged to participate in the scheme.
In a written statement, the Welsh government said that the new system would provide a "much clearer picture of what is really happening in our schools and settings and a marker for asymptomatic transmission and the effectiveness of the measures that have been put in place by each setting".
No such provision has been offered to early years providers based in England, despite childcare settings being asked to remain open to all in the current national lockdown.
The Alliance, NDNA and PACEY are all calling on the Department for Education (DfE) to prioritise asymptomatic testing for early years providers as part of the #ProtectEarlyYears campaign.
While schools and maintained nurseries have been offered home testing kits, the DfE has so far argued that it is concerned about the safety, training and distribution of kits in England.
Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Alliance, said: "Given that such a high proportion of Covid cases are transmitted asymptomatically, it is clear that lateral flow tests are absolutely vital to ensuring that early years settings are safe environments for both children and practitioners during the pandemic.
"As such, while it is incredibly positive to see the Welsh Government take such an important step to support all early years providers in Wales, the fact that they have been able to do so makes it all the more galling that most private and voluntary nurseries, pre-schools and childminders in England still don't have direct access to these vital tests.
"The government has said that settings in England can access 'priority' asymptomatic testing at local community centres, but we know that in many areas, information about such testing still isn't even available and where it is, centres are often only open during working hours and inconveniently located for many providers.
"If direct access to lateral flow tests can be made available to providers in Wales, then there is simply no reason that the same approach cannot be rolled out in England. If the government wants early years settings in England to remain open during this incredibly challenging time, then it needs to provide the practical support that will enable them to do so."