On 4 July, new changes on lockdown measures came into place in England.
More shops and public venues have started to open, you can go out to eat in a restaurant, grab a drink at your local pub, stay at a hotel or campsite, attend a place of worship, get your hair cut and go to an outdoor playground or an outdoor gym. All the information on this can be found in the full guidance.
Understandably, the changes have prompted a great deal of discussion amongst our members who want to understand the implications for their settings and the children that they care for. Questions such as can I take a group of children to the park? Can I pick up children from their school?
In our discussions with the Department for Education we are regularly reassured that they fully recognise that childminders, nurseries and pre-schools are very different from schools. This is why they are looking at a different timescale and approach to easing lockdown in those settings than they are for schools.
However, in line with what we know about the coronavirus, the changes are cautious, incremental and subject to review. The steps away from lockdown remain subject to effective track and trace and keeping the rate of infection (R rate) down. As seen in Leicester the risk of localised outbreaks is very real and there’s every chance that there be further local lockdowns.
There are, for the present time, different guidelines for early years settings (who will be allowed to follow less restrictive guidance from 20 July) and wraparound care providers. This is because of the relative risk of transmission between young children and older children.
As young children tend to not mix widely in terms of social interactions, they are considered to be at less risk of transmitting the infection as their social networks are small. Older children, on the other hand, are considered more likely to independently mix in wider social networks and so to be at greater risk of transmission.
This is constantly under review and as soon as the level of extra risk is judged acceptable by Public Health England and the Department for Education the guidance will be updated and restrictions relaxed.
It is clear, and acknowledged by the Department for Education, that many families with school age children will need wraparound care. It is therefore hoped that enough progress will have been made before then to the loosen current restrictions. The review of this is ongoing and government is balancing the need to keep the virus in check with the need to support children and families to get back to normal.
For early years settings, trips out are now possible. Do make sure that you have risk assessed, made any necessary adjustments and got parental permissions. Meeting up with one other childminder may be possible as long as you can both keep your bubbles consistent and parents are happy for you to do so. It’s important to remember that it remains the case that you should continue to socially distance from anyone not in your household or bubble, so if that cannot be maintained while meeting another childminder group, then you should think carefully about whether doing that is possible and safe for you and the children in your setting.
You should maintain bubbles wherever possible. Attending more than one setting must be minimised but the guidance recognises it cannot always be avoided. For example, if a child needs wraparound care and there is no alternative other than your setting then this is possible.
As always, use your professional judgement and work in partnership with parents to decide how best to implement this guidance in your registered setting.
Finally, remember that bubbles are just one of the hierarchy of controls. All staff and children must wash their hands for 20 seconds and more often than usual, including before and after activities and before and after using toilet facilities. You should promote the ‘catch it, bin it, kill it’ approach for good hygiene, you should also clean frequently touched surfaces and toilets more often than you normally would.
Support from PACEY