Yesterday the government announced a new initiative to offer mass coronavirus testing for businesses in England which employ over 50 staff members. These workplaces will now be able to register to access lateral flow tests twice weekly for all staff members if they are unable to work from home, as a means to reduce the risk of coronavirus transmission. This is an expansion on a previous offer which was only available to businesses with over 250 staff members.
Sadly this initiative will not benefit the vast majority of early years and childcare providers who employ far less than 50 staff or are self-employed childminders. It raises further questions why early years and childcare practitioners in England (who are unable to socially distance from the young children in their care) are not given the same support as schools who can also provide staff with home testing kits.
Liz Bayram, Chief Executive at PACEY comments:
“This is hard to comprehend, especially as it follows on from the diversion in approach that was announced in Wales last week. A childminder or nursery practitioner in Wales can have a home test twice a week to check if they have the virus but in England they must still travel to a community testing site, often during working hours. This support to employers of 50 staff or more is positive news but excludes the majority of registered providers.
"Practitioners, who are worried for their safety because they have to work at close contact with children, have been told throughout the latest lockdown that their work is vital and that they must stay open for all children. Despite this, they are not being afford the same protection and support as schools and now many other businesses. The DfE urgently needs to rethink its current approach."