FAQs - Coronavirus

This page is continuing to be updated in regards to the national lockdown in England from January 2021. 

Unsurprisingly there have been thousands of questions asked in recent weeks and months about the impact COVID-19 will have on your childcare business. Remember that the Department for Education, Ofsted, and other government departments are producing guidance and FAQs about COVID-19 which may help. 

The Department for Education in England helpline can help to answer questions related to education about COVID-19. Staff, parents and young people can contact the helpline between 8am and 6pm, Monday to Friday by calling 0800 046 8687 or emailing DfE.coronavirushelpline@education.gov.uk. PACEY members can contact the legal helpline for advice.

We've collated the most frequently asked questions and grouped them by theme. 

National lockdown support

What is the national lockdown?

From the 5 January 2021, England has been subject to a national stay at home lockdown. You must not leave, or be outside of your home except where necessary. You may leave the home to:

  • shop for basic necessities, for you or a vulnerable person
  • go to work, or provide voluntary or charitable services, if you cannot reasonably do so from home
  • exercise with your household (or support bubble) or one other person, this should be limited to once per day, and you should not travel outside your local area.
  • meet your support bubble or childcare bubble where necessary, but only if you are legally permitted to form one
  • seek medical assistance or avoid injury, illness or risk of harm (including domestic abuse)
  • attend education or childcare - for those eligible

You can find out more information here - www.gov.uk/guidance/national-lockdown-stay-at-home#summary-what-you-can-and-cannot-do-during-the-national-lockdown

As a childcare provider, which children can I now care for? What do I need to consider?

Childcare providers can remain open but only to certain children. We have created a useful table to breakdown which children can attend a setting during the national lockdown which you can download for free here. Please note that this is a fast moving situation and we are doing as much as possible to keep this information up to date.

Pre-school aged children
All childcare providers can care for all pre-school aged children. This means any child who does not yet attend full-time education. Children in Reception are classed as school-aged, and are therefore not pre-school children.

Caring for critical worker school-aged children - wraparound care
Childcare providers can also care for school-aged children but only if they are children of critical workers or vulnerable children for wraparound care. 

Caring for critical worker school-aged children - full-time
It is important to recognise that currently school-aged children of critical workers should be in their school if there is a place available. School provides a familiar environment and routine to support children’s education and wellbeing.

If a parent/carer asks you to care for their child full-time (not wraparound) rather than attend their school, you will need to consider a number of factors alongside your usual risk assessment. For example, how will you support this child’s remote learning whilst caring for the other children in your care? Are you also going to have to home-school your own children if their school is closed? If this is a new child to your setting, what concerns may your current parents/carers have and how will you address these?

Some parents/carers of critical workers may want you to take their school-aged child full-time, even if a school place is available, because they think it will be safer in your setting or because they want siblings to remain together. You will need to think carefully if this is something you are able to provide, potentially for some weeks to come. You should also remind parents/carers that they have a responsibility to keep their child’s school up-to-date.

If you do decide to provide this care, we recommend you add to your contract, to be clear to the parent/carer that you can only support their child to access school lessons e.g. provide a quiet space and connectivity; support with timetabling, encouragement only. You will need to be clear you are not responsible for ensuring their child completes required work. If you need further advice or legal support, please contact the legal helpline – this is a free service for PACEY members.

Caring for vulnerable school-aged children - full-time
Vulnerable school-aged children may have complex needs that are being supported by a range of professionals. It is always best for vulnerable children to attend their school wherever possible. If any new parents/carers ask you to care for their vulnerable child full-time, you should discuss this with your local authority before making any decision, as well as undertaking your usual risk assessment.

The list of critical workers is available here - www.gov.uk/government/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-maintaining-educational-provision

Who is classed as a critical worker or vulnerable child?

The list of critical workers and what classes as a vulnerable child is listed here - www.gov.uk/government/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-maintaining-educational-provision

Do both parents have to be critical workers for me to be able to provide childcare?

No, government guidance states “Children with at least one parent or carer who is a critical worker can go to school or college if required.”

If a parent is classed as a critical worker but is working from home, should a setting continue to provide childcare?

If the parent is classed as a critical worker and is working from home, then you would need to risk assess and discuss with the parent how this would be managed. If childcare can be managed at home then it should be however, this isn’t always possible and therefore childcare can be provided as they are a classed as a critical worker.

The list of critical workers is available here - www.gov.uk/government/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-maintaining-educational-provision

Can children continue to attend multiple settings?

If a child usually attends more than one setting, whilst this is best avoided during national lockdown, it is recognised this may not always be possible. In this instance, providers should work with parents to do the best to minimise any risks.

Can early years provision continue to run in places of worship, village halls and community centres?

The Department for Education have stated that “Yes. Regulations enable registered early years provision to operate in community settings and places of worship”

I am a nanny, can I continue to work?

Yes, guidance states that there are still circumstances in which you are allowed to meet others from outside your household and this includes for work, including working in other people’s homes where necessary, such as nannies.

The guidance can be seen here - www.gov.uk/guidance/national-lockdown-stay-at-home

Dealing with symptoms, testing and isolation

How do I get a test for Coronavirus?

Testing is available for people of all ages in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. This includes:

  • for yourself, if you have coronavirus symptoms now (a high temperature, a new, continuous cough, or a loss or change to your sense of smell or taste)
  • for someone you live with, if they have symptoms
  • if you live in England and have been told to have a test before you go into hospital, for example, for surgery
  • if you live in in an area where there are coronavirus outbreaks

You can choose to take the test at a test site near you with results available within 48 hours or with a home test kit. More information can be found here.

Access priority testing

As a key worker in England, you and members of your family should be able to access priority testing via the government’s employer referral scheme for essential workers. This portal enables you to register for a unique invitation code to book a test for either yourself, or a household member(s) at a regional testing site. Find out how to apply.

If a child or member of staff develops Coronavirus symptoms at my setting, what do I do?

If anyone in the setting becomes unwell with a new, continuous cough or a high temperature, or has a loss of, or change in, their normal sense of taste or smell (anosmia), they must be sent home and advised to follow COVID-19 guidance for households with possible or confirmed coronavirus (COVID-19) infection’, which sets out that they must self-isolate for at least 10 days and should arrange to have a test to see if they have coronavirus (COVID-19). Other members of their household (including any siblings) should self-isolate for 10 days from when the symptomatic person first had symptoms.

If a child is awaiting collection, they should be moved, if possible, to a room where they can be isolated behind a closed door with appropriate adult supervision. Ideally, a window should be opened for ventilation. If it is not possible to isolate them, move them to an area which is at least 2 metres away from other people.

If they need to go to the bathroom while waiting to be collected, they should be taken to a separate bathroom if possible. The bathroom should be cleaned and disinfected using standard cleaning products before being used by anyone else.

PPE must be worn by staff caring for the child while they await collection if a distance of 2 metres cannot be maintained (such as for a very young child or a child with complex needs). More information on PPE use can be found in the Safe working in education, childcare and children’s social care settings, including the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) guidance.

As is usual practice, in an emergency, call 999 if someone is seriously ill or injured or their life is at risk. Anyone with coronavirus (COVID-19) symptoms should not visit the GP, pharmacy, urgent care centre or a hospital.

Any members of staff who have helped someone with symptoms and any children who have been in close contact with them do not need to go home to self-isolate. However, they must self-isolate and arrange for a test if they develop symptoms themselves (in which case, they should arrange a test), if the symptomatic person subsequently tests positive or they have been requested to do so by NHS Test and Trace.

Everyone must wash their hands thoroughly for 20 seconds with soap and running water or use hand sanitiser after any contact with someone who is unwell. The area around the person with symptoms must be cleaned with normal household disinfectant after they have left to reduce the risk of passing the infection on to other people. See the COVID-19: cleaning of non-healthcare settings outside the home guidance.

You can take a look at our downloadable flow chat in the reopening toolkit to support you with this process. Public Health England have also produced some useful action cards for education settings outlining what settings should do to manage a possible outbreak.

What happens if there is a confirmed case of Coronavirus at my setting?

After following the instructions outlined in the previous question. All staff and students who are attending an education or childcare setting where the confirmed case was, will be able to access a test if they display symptoms of coronavirus, and are encouraged to get tested in this scenario.

Where the child, young person or staff member tests negative, they can return to their setting and the fellow household members can end their self-isolation, provided no other member of the household has become symptomatic. Settings do not need to request evidence of negative test results or other medical evidence before admitting children or welcoming them back after a period of self-isolation
 

If someone in your setting or household has tested positive for Coronavirus, as of 17 September, you should contact the DfE’s helpline and you will then be directed to the dedicated NHS advice team for settings with confirmed cases. This new service can be reached by called DfE’s existing helpline on 0800 046 8687 and selecting the option for reporting a positive case (option 1). The line is open Monday to Friday from 8am to 6pm, and 10am to 4pm on Saturdays and Sundays.

The advice service (or PHE local health protection team if escalated) will inform you what action is needed based on the latest public health advice, and work through a risk assessment to identify close contacts.

This includes:

  • direct close contacts - face to face contact with an infected individual for any length of time, within 1 metre, including being coughed on, a face to face conversation, or unprotected physical contact (skin to skin)
  • extended close contact (within 1 to 2 metres for more than 15 minutes) with an infected individual
  • travelling in a small vehicle, like a car, with an infected person

To support the team of advisors in supporting the setting, government recommends that settings keep a record of:

  • children and staff in specific groups/rooms (where applicable)
  • close contact that takes places between children and staff in different groups/rooms

This should be a proportionate recording process. Settings do not need to ask staff to keep definitive records in a way that is overly burdensome.

Further detail and advice can be found here. You can also download our Coronavirus flow chart in the reopening toolkit. Public Health England have also produced some useful action cards for education settings outlining what settings should do to manage a possible outbreak.

Any confirmed cases of coronavirus (Covid-19) in the setting (either child or staff member), and/or if the setting is advised to close as a result, should be swiftly reported to Ofsted through the usual notification channels. Please go to the Ofsted and EYFS section of the FAQs for more information.

In the vast majority of cases, settings and parents and carers will be in agreement that a child with symptoms should not attend the setting, given the potential risk to others. In the event that a parent or carer insists on a child attending the setting, the setting can take the decision to refuse the child if in their reasonable judgement it is necessary to protect their children and staff from possible infection with coronavirus (COVID-19). Any such decision would need to be carefully considered in light of all the circumstances and the current public health advice. Further guidance is available on testing and tracing for coronavirus.

Am I covered by my PACEY PLI insurance if a child in my setting contracts Coronavirus?

PACEY’s insurers are clear that your insurance provides liability, so long as you implement the appropriate steps and actions that are set out in government guidance and Public Health England guidance. This guidance is evolving all the time so you should regularly review this and ensure your systems and procedures are up to date.

As always, we would advise you to keep written records of the steps you have taken in your setting to ensure so far as is practicable, that children and any staff you have remain safe in your care. This would include adequate risk assessments and other appropriate measures put in place to avoid the spread of any infections, including COVID-19.  

PACEY is currently developing advice and support for members on how to undertake risk assessment in light of COVID-19 as well as information on other controls you will need to have in place, including reasonable hygiene procedures. We are also regularly monitoring the guidance and advice being issues in England and Wales to ensure members are up to date with any changes.

In the event that a child or member of staff contract COVID-19 whilst at your setting, it will be important to have this documentation to evidence the steps you have taken to ensure safety and compliance with guidelines. This would be key to successfully defending any possible claim.

Read further guidance from the government here and from Public Health England here.

If you are not insured with PACEY, you need to check any requirements with your chosen insurance provider.

As a childminder, a member of my household has to self-isolate due to being a contact of a confirmed case of coronavirus, do I need to close?

This advice applies where a childminder usually looks after children in their own home, and where a childminder’s household member is self-isolating. For example, this may be when a childminder child has been sent home from school, or partner from work. If:

  • Self-isolation is only as a result of coming into contact with a positive case
  • the household member is not showing symptoms of coronavirus
  • the household member does not require a test

As confirmed to PACEY by Public Health England, Department for Education and now in guidance, at this point, a childminder wouldn’t need to close their registered setting.

However the childminder must:

  • ensure they keep open communication with parents and carers of children attending the setting about the self-isolation.
  • Ensure that the household member isolating does not have any contact with the children being cared for in the setting.
  • Comply with health and safety law and risk assess the situation to demonstrate that the provision of childcare in their setting is safe and aligns with the systems of control. Further guidance on cleaning can be found in COVID-19: cleaning in non-healthcare settings outside the home
  • put in place proportionate control measures. For more information on what is required of employers in relation to health and safety risk assessments, please see annex A of the guidance for full opening: schools
  • have active arrangements in place to monitor that the controls are effective, working as planned, and updated appropriately. For example when any issues are identified, or when there are changes in public health advice.

If there are challenges in ensuring the affected family member stay separated from the children being cared for, mitigations must be put in place and evidenced. For example, if possible the isolating family member should use a separate bathroom. If the isolating family member has to use a shared bathroom or other communal areas, these must be thoroughly cleaned after every use, remembering that the child isolating must not have any contact with the children being cared for in the setting.

At the time of the incident within the school, Test and Trace should activate and it is most likely that you would be contacted by the local health protection team if they felt you needed to close depending on the situation. Don’t forget to keep doing your risk assessments and communicating with parents about what is happening and precautions you are taking. Each situation would be unique and the risk would have to be assessed on a case by case basis by the local health protection teams. For example, if a school had a large outbreak, then it may be necessary for you to close.

Further guidance on risk assessments and keeping children and staff safe can be found in the Actions for early years and childcare providers during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak guidance.

Remember, if the child isolating or any other member of the household displays symptoms of Covid-19 during the period of isolation or otherwise, then the setting would need to close at this point for isolation and testing.

A parent of a child in my setting is isolating due to being a close contact, but has no symptoms of Covid-19. Can their child continue to attend?

Generally, if a parent (of a child in your setting) is isolating due to being a close contact to a person testing positive for Covid-19 but is not showing symptoms of Covid-19, the child would still be able to attend the setting because as stated in guidance, the household would not have to isolate at this point. However, if the parent isolating or anyone else in the household presented symptoms of Covid-19, the whole of that household would then need to self-isolate for 10 days.

It’s important to recognise that this is general advice based on the guidance from NHS test and trace here. All childcare businesses and situations are unique and therefore if you still aren’t sure whether that child can come to your setting or whether you’re comfortable with that child continuing to come to your setting, we’d advise that you risk assess the situation and call Public Health England or your local health protection team for additional advice.  

If a child in my setting has a temperature potentially due to getting a vaccination or teething – do they have to isolate and get tested for Covid-19?

As stated in government guidance, “Vaccines may cause a mild fever in children. This is a common and expected reaction, and isolation is not required unless coronavirus (COVID-19) is suspected.

Whilst teething can cause some known side effects such as flushed cheeks and sore gums, NHS guidelines state that fever is not a symptom of teething.

Parents and carers should monitor side effects from a vaccination or teething, and if they are concerned about their child’s health, they should seek advice from their GP or NHS 111.

If coronavirus (COVID-19) is suspected, settings should follow the advice in the system of controls.”

However, please note that every situation is different and as a childcare provider and business owner, it’s important that you risk assess the situation.

What is the NHS Test and Trace app?

NHS Test and Trace has launched the NHS COVID-19 app to help control the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19). Signing up to app is voluntary and can be used if someone over the age of 16 wants to keep an e-diary of the locations they have visited. Then, if there is a COVID-19 outbreak at a venue they have visited, app users get an early warning alert from the NHS. Furthermore, if a user has a positive test for COVID-19, they can register this on the app and it will support contact tracing teams to locate other people who may have been exposed to the virus

Childminders
You should decide how whether you want to use the app yourself and to encourage any staff you may have or parents using your setting to do the same. However, as it is voluntary, you should continue to maintain your usual system of recording visitors to your setting (including any information that will help you contact them if you need to e.g. if there is a potential Covid-19 outbreak at your setting. Whilst guidance makes clear you should minimise visitors to your setting, sometimes you will need to have parents or others visit come into your home. You are not required to use the app to record visitors but, if you wish to do so, you will need to generate a QR code for your setting (information and links to below). 

Nurseries and pre-schools
As a larger setting, you will have a higher number of staff members and visitors so you should consider how the app can be included in your current policies and procedures and encouraging your staff to use the app in their personal lives. Whilst guidance makes clear you should minimise visitors to your setting, sometimes you will need to have parents or others visit your setting. On these occasions you will need to support your staff to understand how they “check in” visitors who are using the app as well as using your usual process for managing attendance and recording visitors to the setting. This is because the app is voluntary so not everyone may be using it. You will also need to consider how the use of mobile phones for this task are managed alongside your current policy on use of mobile phones in your setting.

Nannies
If you are a nanny, you should consider using the app and let your parents know you are doing so.

How to generate a QR code
If you decide to use the app to record visitors to your setting, you will need to create a QR code to display. You then get visitors to scan the QR code when they arrive. You can create your unique QR code here and will need your email address as well as the address of your business to get started. Once you have created the code, you’ll receive your QR code poster by email which can be printed off and displayed somewhere in your setting where visitors can see it and scan when they arrive.

Being open, staff and parents

Will my childminding PLI insurance continue to cover me?

PACEY’s insurers are clear that your insurance provides liability, so long as you implement the appropriate steps and actions that are set out in government guidance and Public Health England guidance. This guidance is evolving all the time so you should regularly review this and ensure your systems and procedures are up.​

Can Nannies work? Will PACEY’s PLI continue to cover Nannies to work?

Yes, the government has been clear that paid childcare can be provided, so long as risk assessments are done, mitigations are put in place to reduce the risk of transmission.

If you are a nanny, you should not mix with other nannies and you should maintain social distance where possible from the other household members of the family you are working for. If you are a live-in nanny then you will be classed as a member of that household and not required to socially distance from them. Our information on how to run a childcare setting and reduce the risk of infection includes many relevant points for nannies. You should consider this and access our CPD support as you adapt your practice to support the children in your care.

Your insurance provides liability as long as you are meeting the usual criteria (that is that you only work from the parents’ home and not your own, and that you care for no more than two families’ children) and are providing childcare within the latest guidelines set by the government, which include keeping children within their family home except for very limited purposes.

Nannies who are PACEY members can access our legal advice service for free.

If a member of staff, you or a member of your family is vulnerable or pregnant can they work?

Clinically vulnerable people:
Under current national lockdown guidance from January 2021 if you are classed as clinically extremely vulnerable, then you are strongly advised to work from home because the risk of exposure to the virus in your area may be significantly higher. If you cannot work from home, then you should not attend work.

Members of the household who are not clinically extremely vulnerable should continue to attend work if they are unable to work from home

Further guidance for clinically extremely vulnerable people can be found here.

For those who are pregnant:
According to current guidance “Pregnant women are considered ‘clinically vulnerable’ or in some cases ‘clinically extremely vulnerable’ to coronavirus (COVID-19) and therefore require special consideration as set out in the guidance for pregnant employees.

Employers should carry out a risk assessment to follow the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 (MHSW). More information is available on workplace risk assessment for vulnerable people.

Information contained in the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists and the Royal College of Midwives guidance on coronavirus (COVID-19) in pregnancy should be used as the basis for a risk assessment.

Pregnant women of any gestation should not be required to continue working if this is not supported by the risk assessment.

Women who are 28 weeks pregnant and beyond, or are pregnant and have an underlying health condition that puts them at a greater risk of severe illness from coronavirus (COVID-19) at any gestation, should take a more precautionary approach. Employers should ensure pregnant women are able to adhere to any active national guidance on social distancing or advice for pregnant women considered to be clinically extremely vulnerable (this group may previously have been advised to shield).”

If a child in my setting is clinically extremely vulnerable, can they attend my setting?

According to guidance they “now know that very few children and young people are at highest risk of severe illness due to the virus. Doctors have therefore been reviewing all children and young people who were initially identified as clinically extremely vulnerable to confirm whether they are still thought to be at highest risk.”

Under current national lockdown guidance from January 2021, please ask parents to discuss with their child’s doctors and confirm whether their child is still considered clinically extremely vulnerable. If they are, then they should follow shielding advice within the guidance here and not attend education settings.

Guidance confirms that, “Children and young people in the household who are not clinically extremely vulnerable should continue to attend school. Children and young people whose parents or carers are clinically extremely vulnerable should also continue to go to school.”

Can childminders work with other childminders to look after more children together?

Yes – up to 3 childminders (or a mix of up to 3 childminders and assistants) can work together in the same domestic premises. However, if more than 3 childminders work together they will need to apply to Ofsted to register childcare on domestic premises.

If registered to deliver childcare on domestic premises, 4 or more childminders (or a mix of 4 or more childminders and assistants) can work together in the same domestic premises, which would enable them to care for larger groups of children and still meet ratio requirements.

Further details of requirements for childminders and childcare on domestic premises is available.

How do I support my staff if they are from a BAME community?

Research by Public Health England has identified that Covid-19 presents “a disproportionate risk for people from BAME groups, especially if they have pre-existing medical conditions.” Employers should discuss this issue with any staff they have from a BAME community, to understand what, if any concerns, they may have. Take time to talk through what support they may need and to reassure them you have taken the steps advised by Government to reduce the risk of infection. Every circumstance will be different and, if necessary, you can contact PACEY legal advisors free if you are a member.

Can early years settings look after all children?

In light of the national lockdown restrictions in England from January 2021, early years settings can only look after pre-school children and only school-aged children who are classed as children of critical workers or are vulnerable. We have a useful table which you can find in the first section of these FAQs which breaks down what you can do.

Can children attend more than one setting?

*In light of the national lockdown restrictions put in place from January 2021 in England, if a child usually attends more than one setting, whilst this is best avoided during national lockdown, it is recognised this may not always be possible. In this instance, providers should work with parents to do the best to minimise any risks.*

Yes. Early years settings are no longer required to organise children and staff in small, consistent groups so can return to normal group sizes. It also recognises that early years settings are typically smaller than schools. However, settings should still consider how they can minimise mixing within settings.

For example where they use different rooms for different age groups, keeping those groups apart as much as possible. Minimising contact between groups can reduce the number of children and staff required to self-isolate in the event of children or staff testing positive for coronavirus (COVID-19).

Adopting the ‘system of controls’ set out here in a robust way will ensure there are proportionate safeguards for children as well as staff and reduce the chance of transmission.

Parents and carers should be encouraged to limit the number of settings their child attends, ideally ensuring their child only attends the same setting consistently. This should also be the same for staff.

There may be situations where a child needs to attend more than one setting, for example, children attending a childminder before their nursery opens so that their parent or carer may go to work.

Settings, parents and carers should work through the ‘system of controls’ collaboratively to address any risks identified and allow them to jointly deliver appropriate care for the child. This section of the guidance contains more information about the ‘system of controls’ for settings.

How do I manage visits to the setting from parents/carers, additional staff, external professionals and non-staff members?

As detailed in government guidance:

“There will be occasions when visits to the setting are necessary, but settings are encouraged to avoid visitors entering their premises, wherever possible.  Visits that allow a vulnerable child to meet a social worker, key worker or other necessary support should continue on site. Visits for SEND therapies should also continue on site.

A record should be kept of all visitors which follows the guidance on maintaining records of staff, customers and visitors to support NHS Test and Trace.”

Many childcare providers will have a visitor’s book, which is fine for use as long as it contains all the necessary contact information.

Prospective parents and children/new admissions
For new admissions, settings should consider providing virtual tours for prospective parents and carers.

If parents and carers are keen to visit in person, settings should consider:

  • ensuring face coverings are worn if required in line with arrangements for staff and other visitors to the setting (see section 3 on face coverings)
  • there is regular handwashing, especially before and after the visit
  • holding visits after hours. If this is not possible, consider limiting visits to the outside play areas during regular hours, and ensure strict social distancing is observed

Prior to a visit, settings should ensure that parents and carers are aware:

  • of the ‘system of controls’
  • how this impacts them and their responsibilities during their visit
  • how to maintain social distancing from staff, other visitors, and children other than those in their care

PACEY has shared a number of childcare provider’s experiences when settling in new children here.

Parents settling children
Parents and carers are able to enter a setting to help their children adapt to their new environment. Settings should ensure that parents and carers:

  • wear face coverings, if required, in line with arrangements for staff and other visitors to the setting (see section 3 on face coverings)
  • stay for a limited amount of time (ideally not more than an hour)
  • avoid close contact with other children
  • are aware of the ‘system of controls’, how this impacts them, and their responsibilities in supporting it when visiting a setting with their child

Other visits by parents and carers
Parents and carers should not be allowed into the setting unless there is a specific need and make use of remote visits wherever possible.

Children should be dropped off and collected at the door, if possible.

Guidance on parent and child groups can be found in section 5 of the government guidance.

Guidance on parents and carers coming into the setting for organised performances can be found in music, dance and drama section of the government guidance.

External professionals
In instances where settings need to use other essential professionals such as social workers, speech and language therapists or counsellors, or other professionals to support delivery of a child’s EHC plan, settings should assess whether the professionals need to attend in person or can do so virtually. Visits that allow a vulnerable child to meet a social worker, key worker or other necessary support should continue on site. Visits for SEND therapies should also continue on site.

If they need to attend in person, they should:

  • follow guidance relevant to the setting
  • keep the number of attendances to a minimum
  • wash hands frequently
  • where possible to do so, maintain social distancing
  • be informed about the system of controls in settings
     

Other visitors, recruitment and students
Settings should consider how to manage other visitors to the site, such as contractors, and ensure site guidance on social distancing and hygiene is explained to visitors on or before arrival. Where visits can happen outside of setting hours, a record should be kept of all visitors where this is practical which follows the guidance on maintaining records of staff, customers and visitors to support NHS Test and Trace.

Sessions in settings that use external providers, which are not directly required for children’s health and wellbeing, should be suspended. Guidance on visits from music, dance and drama peripatetic teachers can be found in Section 3.8 of this guidance.

Recruitment should continue as usual. As guidance advises limiting the number of visits wherever possible, it may be appropriate for settings to consider a flexible approach to interviews, with alternative options such as video conferencing.

If needed, settings can continue to engage agency staff and students. They must comply with setting arrangements for management and minimise risk. The presence of any additional members of staff should be agreed on a weekly basis, rather than a daily basis, to limit contacts, where possible.”

How can settings manage activities such as music, dance and drama?

Guidance states that

“it relates to organised group activity, not to spontaneous singing, dance and role-play that young children may naturally do, and should be encouraged to do, by early years practitioners”.

 “Music, dance and drama build confidence, help children live happier, more enriched lives, and discover ways to express themselves. There may, however, be a cumulative risk of infection in environments where organised singing, chanting, playing wind instruments, dance and drama takes place.”

It’s important that early years settings considering the following:

  • Settings should take particular care in music, dance and drama lessons that children remain in their usual groups.
  • Settings should keep any background or accompanying music to levels which do not encourage participants to raise their voices unduly.
  • For organised performances:
    • If your area is in tier 1 and 2 and planning an organised indoor or outdoor face-to-face performance in front of a live audience, the setting should follow the latest advice in the performing arts guidance. If an outdoor performance is planned, the setting should also give particular consideration to the guidance on delivering outdoor events.
    • Settings in local restriction tier 3 and tier 4 should not host performances with an audience. In these cases, settings should use alternative methods such as live streaming and recording (subject to the usual safeguarding considerations and parental permissions).

Music, dance and drama peripatetic teachers
When engaging with peripatetic teachers (non-staff who visit settings), a record should be kept of all visits.

Peripatetic teachers can move between early years settings, however, settings should consider how to minimise the number of visitors that attend where possible.

Visitors will be expected to comply with arrangements for managing and minimising risk, including taking particular care to maintain distance from other staff and children. 

To minimise the numbers of temporary staff entering the premises, and secure best value, settings could consider using longer assignments with peripatetic teachers and agree a minimum number of hours across the academic year.

If a teacher is operating on a peripatetic basis, and operating across multiple groups or individuals, it is important that they do not attend a lesson if they are unwell or are having any symptoms associated with coronavirus (COVID-19).

  • They should maintain distancing requirements with each group they teach, where appropriate.
  • They should make efforts to reduce the number of groups taught and locations worked in, to reduce the number of contacts made

Further information on the Music Education Hubs, including contact details for local hubs, can be found at the Arts Council England Music Education Hub.

Organised music sessions in the early years
With appropriate safety mitigation, singing and wind playing (eg. Playing a recorder) can still take place. Measures to take include:

  • playing instruments and singing in groups should take place outdoors wherever possible
  • if indoors, use a room with as much space as possible, for example larger rooms. Rooms with high ceilings are expected to enable dilution of aerosol transmission
  • if playing indoors, social distance each child 2 metres apart
  • limit the numbers to account for ventilation of the space. It is important to ensure good ventilation. Advice on this can be found in air conditioning and ventilation during the coronavirus outbreak
  • singing and wind playing should not take place in larger groups such as choirs and ensembles
  • position wind players so that the air from their instrument does not blow into another player
  • use microphones where possible or encourage singing quietly.
  • Further information on handling equipment and instruments for organised sessions can be found here.

How is 30 hours funding currently being managed with parents?

Guidance states “Temporary changes have been made to the 30 hours free entitlement and tax-free childcare offers so that all eligible parents and carers, including critical workers, are not disadvantaged during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

From 1 November, parents who are temporarily not meeting the minimum income requirement for 30 hours free childcare and / or Tax-Free Childcare as a direct consequence of the coronavirus outbreak will be treated as eligible if they would normally meet the threshold and are in receipt of government coronavirus support schemes, such as the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS).

In your setting

How do I manage activities, in particular malleable materials (messy play)?

Government guidance states that all planned activities should be risk assessed in light of coronavirus, in conjunction with relevant staff where applicable, and due consideration given to how usual practice may need to be adapted.

Childcare settings should have developed their own hygiene policies to try and reduce the spread of infection. This includes keeping separate towels and flannels for each child as well as regular cleaning of toys and resources. Government guidance includes advice on how to do so.

Settings should risk assess activities that involve malleable materials for messy play such as sand, mud and water, as part of their regular curriculum planning.

A risk assessment should consider whether:

  • materials can be handled by a small, consistent group of children of no more than 15 at a time, and that no one else outside this group can come into contact with it
  • the malleable material for messy play (for example sand/water/mud) can be used and cleaned - including being replaced - in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions, where applicable. For example, see managing risk in play provision: implementation guide

Settings should follow the ‘system of controls’ and ensure that:

  • children wash their hands thoroughly before and after messy play
  • frequently touched surfaces, equipment, tools and resources for messy play are thoroughly cleaned and dried before they are used by a different group

Further general cleaning advice can be found in the COVID-19: cleaning of non-healthcare settings guidance.

Consider and communicate a policy on bringing items and toys from home. This should only be done if absolutely essential and, where this is the case, items should be appropriately cleaned on arrival.

Find more support from PACEY here.

When should PPE/face coverings be used? Where can I get PPE?

As stated in government guidance “The government is not recommending universal use of face coverings in early years education and care settings because the system of controls, applicable to all education and childcare environments, provides additional mitigating measures.”

When to use PPE:

  • Where an individual child becomes ill with coronavirus (COVID-19) symptoms while at a setting, and only then if a distance of 2 metres cannot be maintained.
  • where a child already has routine intimate care needs that involves the use of PPE (for example, nappy changing or first aid), in which case the same PPE should continue to be used.

Guidance on safe working in education, childcare and children’s social care provides more information about preventing and controlling infection, how PPE should be used, what type of PPE to use, and how to source it.

Where recommended, use face coverings
The guidance is clear that based on current evidence and measures that settings are already putting in place, face coverings are not necessary when adults are interacting with children, even where social distancing is not possible.

  • When social distancing is difficult to maintain in communal areas
    • As it states in government guidance “In situations where social distancing between adults in settings is not possible (e.g. when moving around in corridors and communal areas), settings have the discretion to recommend the use of face coverings for adults on site, both staff and visitors.”
    • When applying this to a childcare setting, you will need to assess when wearing a face covering would be appropriate. For example, as stated in guidance, for potentially new starters, “if parents and carers are keen to visit in person, settings should consider ensuring face coverings are worn if required in line with arrangements for staff and other visitors to the setting” or if parents need to enter the setting to help their children adapt to a new environment.

Detail on when face coverings are mandatory and the exemptions to this rule can be found here. This includes:

Education and childcare settings and providers should use their local supply chains to obtain PPE. Where that is not possible, they should approach their local authority (LA). If the local authority is not able to meet the PPE needs of education and childcare providers, the LA should approach their nearest local resilience forum (LRF) which will allocate stock if it is available once the needs of other vital services locally have been met.

If neither the LA nor LRF is able to respond to an education or childcare setting’s unmet urgent need for PPE, the setting will need to make their own judgement in line with their risk assessment as to whether it is safe to continue to operate.

Read the guidance on safe working in education, childcare and children’s social care for more information about preventing and controlling infection, including the use of PPE.

Safe removal and disposal of face coverings
Settings should have a process for removing face coverings when staff or visitors who use face coverings arrive at the setting, and when face coverings are worn at the setting in certain circumstances. This process should be communicated clearly to staff and visitors.

Safe wearing of face coverings requires cleaning of hands before and after touching – including to remove or put them on – and the safe storage of them in individual, sealable plastic bags between use. Where a face covering becomes damp, it should not be worn and the face covering should be replaced carefully.

Further information can be found in face coverings: when to wear one and how to make your own.

I have a supervised toothbrushing programme in my setting, how do I manage this now?

PHE have confirmed that supervised toothbrushing programmes may be re-established within settings using the dry brushing method.

The wet brushing model is not recommended because it is considered more likely to risk droplet and contact transmission and offers no additional benefit to oral health over dry toothbrushing.

For information on the cleaning and storage of toothbrushes and storage systems, see the COVID-19: guidance for supervised toothbrushing programmes in early years and school settings.

Going outside, wrap around care, groups and schools

Can settings take children outside or on trips? What about insurance?

Yes, settings can operate at their normal group sizes and while settings should continue to maximise use of private outdoor space, early years settings including childminders are able to be in larger groups locally, outside and for the purpose of education, registered childcare and supervised activities for children.

  • the trip being for the purpose of education or childcare
  • staying within their bubble and within the EYFS staff child registered ratios,
  • making sure risk assessments are completed thoroughly in advance,
  • demonstrating in that risk assessment that they can remain socially distant from other groups (2 metres),
  • Thorough handwashing is maintained throughout as well as before and after the trip
  • The trip is carried out in line with relevant national lockdown guidance and coronavirus secure measures on transport and at the destination.
  • Appropriate insurance arrangements are in place
  • Parental permission is obtained (this is in line with PACEY insurers)
  • and adherence to all other hygiene requirements including with the use of any public equipment - read the guidance here (this is in line with PACEY insurers).

Childminders may take the children in their setting to outdoor public spaces (for example parks or local woods) as long as they adhere to industry guidance, and have evidenced the safety of the children in their care as outlined above.

PACEY’s insurers are clear that your insurance provides liability, long as you implement the appropriate steps and actions that are set out in national industry guidance from Department for Education and Public Health England. 

If you are a PACEY member and have any questions you can contact the free legal helpline. If you are not insured with PACEY, you need to check any requirements with your chosen insurance provider.

Can childminders meet up with others?

*In light of the national lockdown restrictions put in place from January 2021 in England, we are awaiting updating information regarding this question*

How do childminders manage drop offs and pickups from school? What about insurance?

Childminders and other settings should consider how they can work with parents and carers to agree how best to manage any necessary journeys, for example pick-ups and drop-offs at schools, to reduce the need for a provider to travel with groups of children. Where parents can manage drop-offs and pick-ups this should be encouraged.

If it is necessary for a childminder to pick up or drop off a child at school, walking is preferable. If this is not practicable, then a private vehicle is preferable to public transport. Use of public transport should be minimised. If other children in your care would have to travel with you to do this, please check with their parents first to discuss any concerns. 

Settings, parents and carers should work through the ‘systems of controls’ collaboratively, to identify and address any risks and allowing them to jointly deliver appropriate care for the child.

We would encourage providers to work with parents to ensure any children who have to travel from one educational or childcare setting to another are supported to understand the importance of social distancing, regular hand washing etc.

PACEY’s insurers are clear that your insurance provides liability, long as you implement the appropriate steps and actions that are set out in national industry guidance from Department for Education and Public Health England. 

This includes staying within their small group and within registered ratios, making sure risk assessments are completed thoroughly, demonstrating any necessary adjustments, evidencing parental permission and adhering to all hygiene requirements. It is also important that settings continue to not mix groups with other settings when outside. If you are not insured with PACEY then please check with your insurance provider.

Ultimately, you should use your best judgement and help parents understand whether it may or may not be possible to offer drop-offs and pick-ups at this time, especially if the parents of other children in your care have not agreed to their child leaving your setting.

**The guidance released in August for out of school settings and wraparound care states that these providers should keep children in groups of no more than 15, with the same children each time wherever possible, and that only if providers are unable to follow the protective measures in the guidance, should they keep children in groups of no more than 6, including staff members in line with the government’s guidance on social distancing. It is not envisaged that childminding activity would fall into the type of provision that cannot follow the protective measures.**

Can settings offer after school clubs holiday care?

*In light of the national lockdown restrictions put in place from January 2021 in England, wraparound care can only be provided for school-aged vulnerable children and children of critical workers or for any pre-school aged children - we are awaiting updating information regarding this question*

All providers of wraparound childcare, and other out-of-school settings, are able to operate for both indoor and outdoor provision, provided they have safety measures in place.

Wraparound providers which are only registered with Ofsted on the early years register should:

  • continue to follow this guidance, and
  • implement the protective measures set out for early years settings

Where wraparound providers are caring for children over the age of 5, they should:

Can I provide overnight care as a registered childminder?

*In light of the national lockdown restrictions put in place from January 2021 in England, wraparound care can only be provided for school-aged vulnerable children and children of critical workers or for any pre-school aged children - we are awaiting updating information regarding this question*

Can families use grandparents to care for their children?

In light of national lockdown guidance introduced from January 2021 all early years settings remain open to pre-school children. For school-aged children they can continue to attend their usual childcare provider if they are classed as vulnerable children or children of critical workers.

Childcare bubbles continue to be allowed and guidance states: “parents are able to form a childcare bubble with one other household for the purposes of informal childcare, where the child is under 14. This is mainly to enable parents to work, and must not be used to enable social contact between adults”

PACEY will continue to highlight the importance of early education, as well as where it is illegal to pay to use unregistered childcare.

Can community activities such as parent/toddler groups or soft play reopen?

*In light of the national lockdown restrictions put in place from January 2021 in England, we are awaiting updating information regarding this question*

*The below information is prior to the national lockdown in January 2021* 

As it states in guidance “Parent and child groups should check for any additional relevant guidance for their local restriction tier and should only be held in venues and spaces that are permitted to be open and not in private dwellings. To find out which local restriction tier applies to a particular postcode, use the search tool: find out the coronavirus (COVID-19) restrictions in a local area.

Parent and child groups that meet in Ofsted registered settings can operate in all local restriction tiers. Groups meeting in community spaces, such as in a place of worship, community centre or library, can operate at all local restriction tiers and should follow COVID secure guidance for the venue.

Groups must be organised by a business, a charitable, benevolent or philanthropic institution, or a public body, and limited to no more than 15 participants excluding children aged under 5.

Informal groups, such as those organised by a parent, need to comply with the gathering and household mixing rules for the relevant local restrictions tier.
 

Groups should follow the advice in this guidance to ensure that participants follow the ‘system of controls’, which will help towards mitigating the risks of coronavirus (COVID-19) for all children and adults in the setting.

It is important for group participants to maintain:

  • social distancing between adults who do not live together and who are not in the same bubble
  • good hand hygiene. Participants should clean their hands as they arrive and as they leave

Registered settings have the discretion to recommend the use of face coverings for adults in Ofsted registered sites, both staff and visitors (see section 3.3).

Group leaders should ensure:

  • a risk assessment is completed prior to groups and activities taking place
  • groups and activities take place separately to areas being used at the same time by registered children attending an Ofsted registered setting
  • the areas used are well ventilated (see section 3 on ventilation)
  • any rooms used by these groups are cleaned after each use
  • a record of all visitors to the setting is kept”

Can providers attend indoor community activities that are open such as toddler groups/soft play?

*In light of the national lockdown restrictions put in place from January 2021 in England, we are awaiting updating information regarding this question*

The below information is prior to the national lockdown in January 2021

We would advise that providers risk assess thoroughly before attending any community groups and get permission from parents.

As stated in section 5.6 of the Actions for early years and childcare providers during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak guidance “Settings may take children on trips to indoor spaces, for example, to a soft play centre when they are permitted to be open in all local restriction tiers.

Settings must ensure they have fully assessed the risks and have completed a risk assessment prior to a trip.

Settings, parents and carers should work through the ‘system of controls’ collaboratively, to identify and address any risks and allow them to jointly agree appropriate care for the children.

Settings leaders should follow the guidelines relevant to the indoor centre (for example, a soft play centre).

Once inside:

  • setting leaders should remain with the children in their group
  • the group should socially distance from other individuals and groups
  • children and staff should wash hands thoroughly on arrival and before leaving
  • adults (and children over 11) will be required to follow the face covering policy for the indoor space. This may include wearing a face covering before entering and keeping it on until they leave, except when eating or drinking at a table, or when entering / whilst in the playframe

Further information on soft play and indoor play areas can be found in the operational guidance for indoor play areas for children: operational guidance for soft play equipment - the Department for Culture, Media and Sport has contributed to the writing of this guidance.”

Ofsted, first aid and the EYFS

What do I need to tell Ofsted?

Any confirmed cases of coronavirus (Covid-19) in the setting (either child or staff member), and/or if the setting is advised to close as a result, should be swiftly reported to Ofsted through the usual notification channels.

If you decide to re-open, or close, your setting, please let Ofsted know by emailing enquiries@ofsted.gov.uk with ‘Change in operating hours’ in the subject field and including your EY number. Please contact them using an email or phone number that is already known to them, and associated with your registration.

From 28 January 2021, all registered childcare providers in England must use Ofsted’s online notification form to notify Ofsted of significant events, including reporting confirmed cases of Covid-19. Providers should no longer notify Ofsted via phone or email.

To use the online notification form you will need:

  • Your unique reference number (URN)
  • The childcare address
  • Details of the incident and details of those involved

Providers should share the information with Ofsted as soon as practical, and within 14 days of the incident.

Click here for more information

They are also providing rolling updates here - www.gov.uk/guidance/ofsted-coronavirus-covid-19-rolling-update

How is Ofsted managing inspections?

Ofsted has set out its plans for a phased return to inspections of education and childcare providers in England in 2021 however, since the national lockdown in began in January 2021, Ofsted’s rolling update has confirmed that they will delay its return to inspections for all early years settings in England which were originally due to begin in January 2021. This will be in place until after February half term 2021 and is continually being reviewed.

Whilst schools and further education providers will receive remote inspections from 25 January, Ofsted says that conducting inspections remotely in early years settings “will not provide the level of assurance” that the on-site visits provide.

Registered providers will continue to receive regulatory visits from Ofsted where concerns have been raised. These visits may take place on-site if necessary, depending on risk assessment and individual circumstances.

This change has been reflected in Ofsted’s rolling coronavirus update guidance, as well as PACEY’s FAQs.

Full routine graded inspections will not return for early years providers until the summer term which begins in April 2021. However, this continues to be under review given the current situation.

What happens after an inspection?

After the inspection visit, the inspector should submit their evidence through the agreed channels. The inspector arranges for a draft version of the inspection outcome letter to be sent to the provider. The provider will be able to highlight any issues that it wants us to consider when finalising the letter, including any comments they may have about the findings and process. We will consider all comments submitted. If comments are submitted, the inspector will respond to them and this will be shared with the provider with the final version of the inspection outcome letter.

If the provider is not complying with all the requirements, the inspection outcome letter will include details of the action the provider must take and a date by when they must complete the actions. The provider must respond to us by the stated date setting out the action they have taken to comply and to confirm that they have taken the necessary steps to ensure compliance with all the requirements.

Ofsted will follow up any outstanding actions and send a reminder letter to the provider if they do not respond within the timescale. Any outstanding actions will be risk assessed by the regulatory team and action taken accordingly, such as referral to the region on cancellation. A senior manager in Ofsted will decide whether to carry out a further inspection within 12 months if any non-compliance was serious and/or we have reason to believe it may persist.

Ofsted will aim to send a final version of the inspection outcome letter to the provider within 30 working days of the end of the inspection. The provider may submit a complaint when we share the final version of the inspection outcome letter. If they do, the publication of the outcome letter will be delayed until the complaint has been investigated. Ofsted will publish this inspection outcome letter on the Ofsted reports website 8 days after this – 38 working days after the on-site inspection work has finished. The inspection outcome letter will remain on the reports website for a period of 12 months after the date of the inspection.

Does the Early Years Foundation Stage still apply? What about paediatric first aid?

*Since the national lockdown began in January 2021, we have had a number of concerns raised by members facing issues accessing PFA training and also transmission risks. We have asked DfE to revert to their previous position during the first lockdown, namely to update the current EYFS disapplications to state that childminders as well as nurseries and pre-schools should use their best endeavours to maintain an up to date PFA certificate. This will recognise for some this may not be feasible during the current lockdown. Once we have an update from DfE we will update this question.*

Updated arrangements were put in place from 26 September 2020 until 31 August 2021 to allow providers to use the specific disapplications and modifications if any local or national government agreed coronavirus (COVID-19) restrictions impact their ability to deliver the EYFS. This is described in more detail in paragraph 2.2 of the EYFS disapplications guidance here.

Is there any flexibility in ratios?

The flexibility in ratios remains the same as it has always been. In the EYFS, paragraph 3.30 it states that ‘Exceptionally, and where the quality of care and safety and security of children is maintained, changes to the ratios may be made.’ Ofsted consider the extent of the COVID-19 outbreak to be an exceptional temporary circumstance in which the staff to child ratios set out in the EYFS can be changed if necessary. However, childcare providers remain responsible for ensuring the safety and security of children in their care.

Amendments made to regulations from 24 April allow further exceptions to be made to the qualification level that staff hold in order to be counted in the ratio requirements. Settings should use reasonable endeavours to ensure that at least half of staff (excluding the manager) hold at least a full and relevant level 2 qualification to meet staff to child ratio requirements, but this is not a legal requirement.

You can find further information here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/early-years-foundation-stage-framework--2

Policies and contracts

How do I manage paperwork and policies with Covid-19?

You will need to continue to review your existing policies and procedures to ensure that they adequately cover the changes in circumstances and to ensure you can operate safely.

PACEY has updated key sample policies (including health and safety, risk assessment, illness and infection control and food and drink) for you to adapt to the specific needs of your setting. These policies are updated regularly as guidance changes.

You can also access a variety of paperwork in our Covid-19 early years toolkit spotlight here - www.pacey.org.uk/working-in-childcare/spotlight-on/coronavirus/reopening-settings-coronavirus/covid-19-paperwork/

How should I manage contracts with parents?

All childcare businesses are individual, and you will know your business and your parents best.

If you have continued to remain closed (whilst other settings reopen) it is likely to be challenging to continue to expect your current parents to wait until you are ready to re-open. You should talk to them about why you are remaining closed and try to come to a mutually agreeable future plan. However these parents may wish to give you notice if they are unable to wait until you are ready to reopen.

Some childcare settings who are not charging their monthly fees have asked parents who can afford to, to pay a voluntary monthly retainer fee to help them stay viable and be able to open after the pandemic. If you do decide to propose a retainer to the families using your service, it will help to explain how this retainer will help you to cover the business costs that you will continue to incur even if you are closed e.g. insurance. Whilst not all parents will be able to do so – especially if they are also self-employed, for example - some may be happy to continue to support in this way but it is likely this will not be a realistic way forward if other childcare services start to reopen

Ultimately, you will need to decide if proposing a retainer fee is something your parents will be willing to pay, potentially for a number of months. You will have to balance your immediate financial concerns with your longer term plans to reopen.

Whatever you decide, be reasonable and balanced in your dealings with parents as you may want them to return to your service in the future or recommend you to others.

When you decide to reopen, you may want to review your current contracts with your parents before they return. In particular if you have agreed any special arrangements with them during the pandemic that may need to be reflected in your contract. PACEY has already updated its contracts for childminding (see the question below).

PACEY members can also contact the legal team for advice on individual contracts and you can also access information from the Competitions Market’s Authority on consumer law.

Has PACEY made any amendments to current contracts?

PACEY’s Childminding Contracts are tailor-made to meet your needs and include useful guidance notes to help you negotiate and agree terms with parents or guardians. The completion of a written childminding contract is a regulation requirement in Wales and part of the EYFS in England.

We have already updated these to ensure they reflect some of the issues that have emerged as a result of the pandemic. This includes the addition of an agreed retainer fee if enforced closure was to occur.

Now available to buy in digital form, the single-use contracts for childminders in England can be purchased individually. These contracts have been updated to cover enforced closures and pandemics. For help in completing digital contracts please see our provider FAQs.  

While new paper contracts have been updated to reflect issues such as enforced closures. If you have already purchased a paper version of a PACEY registered childminding contract (England) pre-14 September 2020, we have an addendum available, free of charge, to cover enforced closures. Please download and update the PDF and ensure that both parties sign and date it. This addendum should be stored securely with your existing contract.

If you purchase a paper version of the Wales PACEY registered childminding contract, you will also receive a bi-lingual downloadable addendum free of charge, which covers enforced closures. This will automatically be added to your basket and you will receive a link to the documents after purchase. 

What was the information shared by CMA regarding COVID-19 and retainer fees?

At the end of April, The Competitions and Markets Authority (CMA) launched an investigation regarding the early years sector and charging retainer fees during the COVID-19 pandemic. After this was announced, PACEY worked closely with CMA alongside sector colleagues the National Day Nurseries Association (NDNA) and the Scottish Childminding Association (SCMA) to provide evidence and information about the complex financial issues in the early years sector.

The CMA then issued an open letter to the sector as well as guidance specifically on Covid-19 restrictions and consumer law advice for nurseries and early years settings. 

Please make sure you read the full guidance as it contains clear and important guidance.

How has PACEY, NDNA and SCMA worked with the CMA?

The Professional Association for Childcare and Early Years (PACEY), The National Day Nurseries Association (NDNA) and the Scottish Childminding Association (SCMA) have worked together with the CMA since the beginning of May to provide evidence and information regarding the complex financial issues in the early years sector. We also advised on the current guidance to make sure that providers have the correct information and knowledge going forward in regards to COVID-19 retainers fees and consumer law.

Are PACEY contracts and the addendum still fine to use?

Yes. Our PACEY contracts are regularly reviewed by our legal team. In light of this new advice and guidance from The CMA regarding voluntary ‘retainer’ fees, we have re-checked our contracts and have needed no change at this point.

Can I still charge for my holidays/bank holidays?

Yes. You can add charges into your contract such as holidays/bank holidays however, these must be clearly communicated with parents, approached in a fair way and with the clear agreement with parents. We have further advice regarding contracts and agreements here - www.pacey.org.uk/parents/working-with-your-childcarer/contracts-and-agreements/ 

Are parents going to be demanding refunds for retainer fees? Can they?

The CMA is asking providers to consider their contracts and arrangements with parents and take any necessary steps to ensure they comply with the law. If, after reading the CMA advice, you are unsure as to whether or not your charges were fair and reasonable, PACEY members can call the free Legal Advice line. If you feel you may have incorrectly charged your customers, you should proactively contact parents to discuss this and agree the best method of refund.

Equally, if a parent has asked for a refund for their retainer fee during a forced closure but you feel the charges were fair and reasonable then you should contact the parent in writing to explain why you believe your charges were fair and reasonable, stating how you have adhered to CMA’s guidance. If the parent continues to disagree, as a PACEY member, you can call our free Legal Advice line for support and advice on your specific circumstances.

I am still feeling worried about my contract after the release of the CMA guidance, where can I find further support?

In regards to the latest CMA guidance and advice regarding the COVID-19 pandemic and charging voluntary/retainer fees, we have some FAQs available to members here.

As every situation is unique, we would encourage all PACEY members to ring the free legal helpline if they wish to discuss their situation in more detail. The number can be found here.

How could I manage first aid reports and getting a signature from a parent when trying to social distance?

Given the current situation and if you are not able to obtain a signature in the normal way, we would suggest that you send the report to the parent via email or phone message. Where the parent normally signs, please write in the time/date and method the parent was informed as well as the time/date and method the parent acknowledged the report.

If you need further support, PACEY members can call the legal helpline.

The family of a child I look after are not adhering to government guidance while not at my setting – what can I do?

Both the setting and the families who attend that setting must adhere to government guidance at all times. This is to keep both them and the setting safe and prevent further outbreaks as we move through government reopening plans.

Before you re-open please make sure that you have all the correct policies and procedures in place and that parents are fully aware of these requirements, why they are in place and what is expected of them.

If you are aware of a family who are not adhering to government guidelines we would suggest that the setting contacts the family with a clear letter explaining and reminding them of the requirements previously set out and that they need to adhere to them. We would also recommend that you seek specific advice from the PACEY legal help line. This is a free service for members.

One of my employees who works at my setting is not adhering to government guidance when not working – what can I do?

It is important that employees understand and adhere to guidance when working and not working. We would suggest adding some information to your staff handbook to remind staff of your expectations. Below is some suggested wording.

“As an organisation we take the health and wellbeing of staff and children seriously. As such, we would expect all members of staff working within the setting to abide by any government recommendations, laws and guidelines on social distancing whether at work or in their private lives.  Any breaches of government guidelines on social distancing will be dealt with in accordance with our disciplinary procedures and may be treated as gross misconduct.

If you need any further information in relation to social distancing, please speak to [INSERT HR/MANAGER NAME HERE]”

Financial support

Is early years entitlement funding continuing for registered providers?

Early Years entitlement funding will no longer be paid to local authorities at pre-pandemic levels and will instead return to the ‘normal’ approach based on a January 2021 census of the number of entitlement hours taken up by children in each local authority.

During the coronavirus pandemic, the DfE had made the decision to keep funding entitlements at pre-pandemic levels due to the continued low numbers of children attending early year settings.

Local authorities may be eligible for a ‘top-up’ of entitlement funding on a case-by-case basis. If a local authority has attendance below 85% of the January 2020 census which then increases in the spring term, the government will top-up to fund these additional places. This funding would be limited to an equivalent to 85% of their January 2020 census.  

New funding rates for 2021-22

The DfE also announced new funding rates for 2021-22 which takes into account the 1.2% percent increase promised in the 2020 Spending Review. This equates to a rise of just 6p per hour for three- and four-year-olds and 8p per hour for two year old funding.

PACEY is campaigning for DfE to reconsider its funding position for the spring 2021 term.

Can I claim the Self-employment Income Support Scheme?

Self-employed childminders can claim a grant through the coronavirus (COVID-19) Self-employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS) scheme which has been extended until the end of April 2021.

  • The SEISS grant has been extended to introduce a third grant. You can make a claim for the third frant if your business has been impacted by Coronavirus on or after 1 November 2020. You must submit your claim on or before 29 January 2021. This third grant will cover November to January calculated at 80% of average trading profits, up to a maximum of £7,500.
  • The SEISS Grant Extension will last for six months in total, from 1‌‌‌ November 2020 to 30‌‌‌ April 2021. A further grant will cover February to April, as grants will be paid in two lump sum instalments each covering a three-month period. The government will set out further details, including the level of that grant, in due course.

You can find more detail on how to apply here - https://www.gov.uk/guidance/claim-a-grant-through-the-self-employment-income-support-scheme

If you’re not eligible
You may still be eligible for Universal Credit or Employment and Support Allowance.

What financial support is available to childcare providers?

You can use this short questionnaire to help identify what your business would be eligible for from the government www.gov.uk/business-coronavirus-support-finder/y

There is a range of financial support available from Government:

  • Business rates holiday - Childcare providers are eligible for a business rates holiday for one year. That means non-local authority providers of childcare (registered with Ofsted) will pay no business rates in 2020-21, from 1 April. This will happen automatically and more information can be found here.
  • Self-employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS) - Self-employed childminders can claim a grant through the coronavirus (COVID-19) Self-employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS) scheme.
    • The SEISS has been extended to introduce a third grant. This third grant will cover November to January calculated at 80% of average trading profits, up to a maximum of £7,500.
    • The SEISS Grant Extension will last for six months in total, from 1‌‌‌ November 2020 to 30‌‌‌ April 2021. A further grant will cover February to April, as grants will be paid in two lump sum instalments each covering a three-month period. The government will set out further details, including the level of that grant, in due course.
    • You can claim for the third frant from 30 November 2020 and you must make your claim on or before 29 January 2021.
    • All the information is here - https://www.gov.uk/guidance/claim-a-grant-through-the-self-employment-income-support-scheme
  • Coronavirus job retention scheme (CJRS) / furlough scheme – This scheme was due to close on 31 October but due to national restrictions has now been extended until the end of the March.

    • The CJRS will remain open until March 2021, with employees receiving 80% of their current salary for hours not worked, up to a maximum of £2500.

    • There are currently no employer contribution to wages for hours not worked. Employers will only be asked to cover National Insurance and employer pension contributions for hours not worked. For an average claim, this accounts for just 5% of total employment costs or £70 per employee per month. The CJRS extension will be reviewed in January to examine whether the economic circumstances are improving enough for employers to be asked to increase contributions. 

  • Bounce Back Loan Scheme - If your small to medium sized business (SME) is affected by coronavirus, you may be able to borrow between £2000 and £50,000 through the Bounce Back Loan Scheme. This is also available to some self-employed people. You can check eligibility criteria here. The government will guarantee 100% of the loan and for the first 12 months you will not have to pay any fees or interest, or make repayments.
  • VAT payments for next quarter will be deferred, therefore they will not need to be paid until March 2021.
  • Working tax credit has been increased by £1,000 a year.
  • For the self-employed (including childminders) the minimum income floor has been suspended until the end of April 2021, meaning Universal Credit can be accessed at a rate to match statutory sick pay (SSP).
  • Mortgage holidays will continue to be on offer to those customers struggling to make their mortgage payments through the COVID-19 outbreak. Some banks are also offering further support to those struggling to repay personal loans. Contact your bank or building society to see what they can offer you. 
  • Further details on support for businesses is available here: www.gov.uk/coronavirus/business-support

PACEY will continue to push Government to support you to stay in business and be able to deliver the childcare families will need after the pandemic. We are continuing to meet regularly with the Department for Education, and submit evidence to the Treasury Committee.

What support can employers access to help pay assistants/staff?

If you have a contract of employment with your assistant or staff member, as the employer you will be contracted to pay them a salary for a set period of time including any notice period. It will be up to you to decide if you can afford to pay them whilst closed or to consult them on a proposal to be made redundant.

The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, also known as the ‘furlough’ scheme, has been extended until December.

If you are still delivering a service and have staff working for you, you may be able to apply for the Business Interruption Loan to help you meet immediate expenses, for example wages bills. Read more at www.british-business-bank.co.uk/ourpartners/coronavirus-business-interruption-loan-scheme-cbils-2/for-businesses-and-advisors/

 

What do I do if I don’t qualify for the self-employed help scheme?

We are aware that some childminders, especially newly registered, will not qualify for help and continue to push Government for support of those childminders who receive no help. You should also consider applying for the other available options. A self-employed person could be entitled to a combination of Universal Credit + new style Employment and Support Allowance + Local Housing Allowance + Child Benefits to see them through the next few months depending on their circumstances.

Removing the minimum income floor means benefits will no longer assume that you earn a minimum amount and will take into account your actual earnings – meaning it will properly catch those who have seen their income fall to nothing.

In addition to these measures the government has worked to reduce the fixed outgoings of self-employed people. So you may also benefit from:

  • Rent deferral
  • Mortgage deferral
  • Tax Bill deferral
  • Business VAT deferral
  • IR35 deferral

If you apply for the self-employed scheme, can you apply for Universal Credit, or other sources of government support as well?

Yes. A self-employed person could be entitled to a combination of Universal Credit + new style Employment and Support Allowance + Local Housing Allowance + Child Benefits to see them through the next few months depending on their circumstances.

Removing the minimum income floor means benefits will no longer assume that you earn a minimum amount and will take into account your actual earnings – meaning it will properly catch those who have seen their income fall to nothing.

In addition to these measures the government has worked to reduce the fixed outgoings of self-employed people. So you may also benefit from:

  • Rent deferral
  • Mortgage deferral
  • Tax Bill deferral
  • Business VAT deferral
  • IR35 deferral

For further information regarding Universal Credit please follow these links:

Emotional health and wellbeing

I'm feeling very worried and concerned about the whole situation and having to stay at home is making me feel worse. What can I do?

Taking care of your mind as well as your body is really important while staying at home because of coronavirus (COVID-19).

You may feel bored, frustrated or lonely. You may also be low, worried or anxious, or concerned about your finances, your health or those close to you.

It's important to remember that it is OK to feel this way and that everyone reacts differently. Remember, this situation is temporary and, for most of us, these difficult feelings will pass. Staying at home may be difficult, but you are helping to protect yourself and others by doing it. So we have listed some useful resources and help if you need it.

  1. NHS Every Mind Matters
    Having good mental health helps us to make sense of difficult times and enjoy our lives more. Take a look at expert advice, tips and more from the NHS support.
  2. Mind 
    It is absolutely normal to be feeling anxious and worried about Coronavirus. Resources from Mind recognises this and give you tips and practical support to help.
  3. Public Health England
    Access some easy to read advice and information on how to look after your mental health and wellbeing during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak
  4. Samaritans
    The coronavirus outbreak is affecting the way many of us live our lives, and it's normal that this will affect people's mental health. The Samaritans have gathered some resources together to help. If you need someone to talk to, please don't forget you can call the Samaritans at any time, for free, by calling 116 123.

What training support is PACEY offering?

PACEY has free, short courses as part of EY smart. You can access our newest courses tackling topics including trauma and bereavement, all of which will support your business and the children in your setting as you prepare to reopen in June or whenever you decide to.

You can register for free here - https://eysmart.pacey.org.uk/

The early years and childcare sector is playing a key part in the country’s ongoing response to coronavirus.

Liz Bayram, PACEY Chief Executive, adds; 
"I just wanted you to know that every single member of staff and every volunteer at PACEY is standing firmly behind you; working tirelessly to ensure you have the support you need to get through this difficult time. We are a small charity but we make up for it with our determination and dedication to support all of our members as well as the wider sector.”