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Trying to help Early Years providers

January 14, 2021 2:11 PM
By Cllr Vilnis Vesma

I'm currently trying to resolve three pandemic-related problems affecting Early Years (EY) providers.

One is that they are now being funded only on actual occupancy levels, which are now very much reduced because of parents' concerns. I have asked my District Council cabinet member if they can help with financial support and am awaiting a reponse from our Chief Finance Officer.

Her second concern was that government guidance discourages the use of PPE in EY settings. If this is true it strikes me as reckless in the extreme, given firstly that very small children cannot be expected to exercise social distancing, secondly that they are disproportionately likely to be asymptomatic carriers, thirdly the nature of the setting (a crowded indoor space with prolonged contact) which has long been known to be the main factor in spreading the disease and fourthly the mixing of multiple households. Obviously I could only advise her, given the risk to public health, to ignore the guidance. I reported my concerns about dangerous guidance to the Health and Safety Executive but they wouldn't help and have washed their hands of the matter (while not even singing happy birthday once).

Then today we hear that EY providers operating in the private, voluntary and independent sector will not be getting home testing kits delivered to the door as they had hoped when the Department for Education originally promised a 'mass roll-out' of testing. Forcing staff who are already working longer than normal hours to travel to testing centres is likely to mean that far fewer tests are carried out, exacerbating the risk.

I've written to our MP about all this. There is a great deal for him to sort out here, but I suggested that getting testing kits delivered to the door is critical as it will allow the adverse consequences of the PPE guidance be detected more reliably and potentially mitigated to some degree.