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NEWS: A letter to members and the childcare and EY sector from Liz Bayram, PACEY Chief Executive

Liz Bayram, Chief Executive at PACEY writes to members and the early years and childcare sector:

I just wanted to recognise how difficult the last week has been for you and everyone else in our sector. When social media was awash last week with practitioners reporting that they had secured a vaccine appointment (as part of the social care workforce), it no doubt felt like some good news had finally arrived. Fast forward to today and once again you feel let down. Following months of disappointment and a lack of progress around this issue as well as home testing, funding and more, we need meaningful action from Government now and not just platitudes about how vital childcare and early years services are.

The last few days have also reminded us how powerful social media can be. It can support us to share experiences and ideas with each other but it can also cause confusion and mis-information. Last week was the perfect storm of both aspects. Many practitioners looked to social media for information and advice when reports began to emerge that some had secured an appointment. The NHS’s decision to move from inviting named social care workers to book a vaccine to simply asking anyone in social care to self-refer is at the root of this confusion. This change was compounded by the NHS appointment system confirming early years and childcare practitioners could have an appointment when they were among the people who self-referred. It is completely understandable how many of you made an appointment in this confusing situation. You are placing yourselves, your staff and families at risk from the virus every day and, of course, want to do what you can to protect everyone!

The harsh reality is that most practitioners were never included in social care criteria for vaccination by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI); only practitioners who can evidence they are caring for clinically extremely vulnerable children. PACEY acted as quickly as it could to investigate what was happening; to push government to explain if anything had changed and to take action to rectify the growing confusion. We did all we could to give members and the wider sector the facts as we knew them and advice on what to do as the situation evolved. Thank you to everyone who got in touch telling us about their personal experiences with this issue. 

Of course I don’t do the amazing job you do every day and so can never experience the stress you are under at the moment. But I do share your upset and frustration with this situation and how it wasn’t resolved more rapidly by Government. It should not take days to explain what went wrong and to rectify it. Threatening people with fines is unhelpful too and PACEY will oppose this if any of its members are fined for receiving a vaccination when told by the NHS system they qualified. Even today, as practitioners attempt to cancel appointments at short notice, as instructed by government, they are finding this challenging to do.

I don’t believe anyone who booked a vaccination appointment over the past few days was intent on “jumping the queue” ahead of people who are prioritised because they are more at risk. They genuinely believed they were included in social care. The fact that, almost a week later, we still have no answer around what happens to those vaccinated practitioners who are now due a second dose within 12 weeks is not acceptable. PACEY’s assumption is that the second dose should be honoured for these individuals.

What the sector now urgently needs is clarity on when you and other practitioners will be prioritised for vaccination. Nurseries, childminders and nannies are offering face to face care with young children who cannot socially distance. This is why they must be placed in the first priority group for occupational vaccination. PACEY and sector partners have been pushing for months now for our sector to be included. This prioritisation is being done by the DHSC right now and you can help us in our efforts to secure this commitment, by taking part in our social media campaign #NotAtArmsLength.

And remember some of you will qualify for vaccination now. If you are currently caring for a clinically extremely vulnerable child or indeed are in one of the nine priority groups because you are clinically extremely vulnerable yourself. You can find out more from our FAQs that have been updated today.

Best wishes,

Liz Bayram
Chief Executive