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NEWS: Testing turmoil for childcare providers in England

PACEY has this week been overwhelmed by many of its 20,000 members in England – childminders, nurseries and pre-schools – saying they cannot access the Covid-19 tests they need to know if they must temporarily close their service due to a suspected case of the virus.

PACEY is calling on the Department for Education to take urgent steps to address the current delays to Covid-19 testing. Its members in England – who are caring for 1000s of babies, toddlers and school age children, many with the coughs, colds and high temperatures that are common as children return to school or childcare after the summer holidays – are reporting ongoing problems with testing.

Liz Bayram, PACEY Chief Executive, said:
“Childcare providers – who have struggled to maintain their service during lockdown – are now trying to build their businesses back up but being thwarted by the current lack of available Covid-19 testing as well as long delays for test results to be returned. This means additional burden and stress at an already challenging time. Some providers are having to close for a whole week as they struggle to get a test appointment and then await results. This means they are letting parents including teachers and NHS staff down and, for some, suffer further financially, as providers may have to refund parents for the service they now can’t use.

“PACEY is extremely concerned not only by the lengthy delays but also by the DfE’s contradictory messages to early years and childcare providers. Whilst being told they are critical to our national recovery, providers are excluded from some of the government’s recent mitigations to ease this testing trouble. For example, schools and FE colleges have been told they can have more home testing kits but not childcare and early years providers. We are receiving reports that the new advice line, set up this week for schools, colleges and early years settings to report a confirmed positive case of Covid-19, is not taking calls from early years providers.

“We need government to better recognise that early education and childcare services are integral to supporting children’s development as well as helping parents to work and lifting families out of poverty. It is not an add-on that is forgotten or given less support than services caring for children aged over five. Giving registered providers access to the same homes testing kits as schools and colleges would be a start.”