Four in 10 providers close due to self-isolation
By Rachel Lawler
A snap Alliance poll has found that more than four in 10 nurseries, pre-schools and childminders in England had to fully and/or partially close at least once since 1 June due to self-isolation requirements.
The survey, which polled more than 1,000 early years providers, also found that nearly a third of providers had to fully close at least once.
These closures will have an impact on several critical sectors, with nine in 10 providers delivering childcare for key worker families. On average, critical worker children account for more than a third of total places.
In response, the Alliance has called for early years providers to be added to the list of sectors exempt from self-isolation requirements “as a matter of urgency”.
More than nine in 10 providers asked believed that the early years sector should be added to the self-isolation exemption list.
Vital importance of sector
Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Alliance, commented: “When the government told the early years sector remain open at the start of year despite instructing schools and colleges to close, it said this was for two reasons: because early years settings were ‘low-risk Covid environments’, and because of the vital importance of early education and childcare.
"It beggars belief therefore that now, when self-isolation rules are playing havoc not only with providers’ ability to remain financially sustainable, but also their ability to provide the care and education that working parents need, we are once again the forgotten sector.
“The government has said that exemption list is intended to minimise the disruption caused by rising Covid cases. Who exactly does it think is looking after the young children of NHS staff, carers, food workers and other critical staff, and ensuring they can actually go to work?
“The early years sector is a critical part of our national infrastructure and should be treated as such. The government simply must include the early years workforce on the self-isolation exemption list, before the vital services we provide are put at any greater risk.”
Childcare for key workers
Kimberley Woodward, managing director of Buttercup Corner Day Nursery, Oldham, added: "How do critical workers continue doing their jobs if they have no childcare? We are really struggling to staff safely with the number of staff having to isolate. None have tested positive, and all have had two vaccinations. It makes no sense that our staff are sat at home when well. We take lateral flow tests twice a week, and more often when necessary."