FAQs related to COVID-19 (Wales)

Given the quickly changing and evolving nature of this page Welsh translation is not available, apologies for any issues caused.

Unsurprisingly there have been many questions asked about the impact COVID-19 will have on your childcare business. Remember the Welsh Government Frequently Asked Questions and the CIW Frequently Asked Questions are of use to the sector and are regularly updated.  These should be used in conjunction with the information below. PACEY members can also contact the legal helpline for advice.

We've collated the most frequently asked questions and grouped them by theme. These FAQ's relate to settings in Wales only. 

Position in Wales

What is the position in Wales?

The position in Wales is different from England. 

Wales moved to alert level zero on 7 August, following the latest review of the coronavirus regulations in Wales.

All childcare and playwork providers, including Flying Start childcare, can remain open and offer their normal services, including provision through the school holidays. This includes childcare and playwork providers operating from school sites, community centres, places of worship, leisure centres and sports venues. 

 

Why is the position different in Wales to England?

Education and childcare are legislative powers that have been devolved in Wales. This means Wales make their own decisions on childcare including how they are responding to the Covid 19 pandemic. This may be because the communities here need different responses or because the pandemic has progressed differently. 

What is the position in relation to CIW inspections?

Care Inspectorate Wales (CIW) have announced their COVID-19 approach to recovery as they move from response to recovery phase.

CIW are monitoring, inspecting and reviewing services by;

  • considering feedback, information, notifications and concerns
  • actively seeking feedback from people receiving services
  • seeking information from providers
  • carrying out physical inspection of regulated services

They are using this intelligence to prioritise their activities.  Inspections always consider the ‘well-being’ theme of CIW frameworks and result in a published report. For childcare and play services CIW have suspended publishing ratings and are considering resuming these from September 2021. 

Risk assessments and risk management plans in relation to COVID-19 will be used to ensure the safety of people using the service, staff and inspectors.        

What is the position in relation to Estyn inspections?

Routine Estyn inspections are currently suspended. Estyn have published Frequently Asked Questions in relation to COVID-19 and inspection.

A joint statement between CIW and Estyn in relation to non-maintained childcare settings confirmed that together CIW and Estyn have decided that the current suspension of joint inspections of non-maintained settings will continue until at least 31 August 2021. They will review the situation over the summer and consider the options for restarting the joint inspection programme in the future. They will aim to give the sector at least 6 weeks’ notice before resuming routine joint inspections.                                            

Closing and reopening

What should I do if I have to temporarily close my setting?

CIW have stated that you should notify CIW of confirmed and suspected cases of COVID-19 of people using the service, staff and family members. By suspected, they mean people showing symptoms of the virus (new continuous cough and high temperature). 

Please use CIW Online to notify them and report as you would any infectious disease. If your childminding service is now closed, please inform CIW by emailing CIW@gov.wales

If you are closing due to the outbreak you should notify PACEY, if you hold insurance and/or membership with us, by emailing support@pacey.org.uk

Cwlwm have published Top Tips to Remember for your Care Inspectorate Wales (CIW) Registered Childcare Setting whether it is open or closed during Covid-19 Outbreak.

Cwlwm have also published a factsheet to support settings in Wales around Temporary or Emergency Closure of a Childcare or Play setting

Does a childcare provider have to reopen?

It is up to you as an individual to decide what’s best for your business in line with their own position and approach taking into account the Guidance for childcare and playwork: coronavirus and other information. Carry out risk assessments, talk to parents/carers, your family members and any staff you may have to discuss reopening and the measures that you will have to put in place in order to do so safely and within government guidance. It’s a decision only you can take depending on your circumstances.

There is no legal requirement to re-open and, while for group settings, there is the potential for local authorities to demand that you re-open if they do not have sufficient supply of childcare places in the local area, this is highly unlikely to be a power that they need to use. This power does not apply to registered childminders because they work in private homes.

PACEY members have access to the legal advice line around any legal or contractual issues.

If  a childminder or family member needs to self-isolate then they must close. The government is clear that people should be staying at home and ensuring social distancing and, where appropriate, self- and household isolation to help defeat this virus.

Who do I need to notify if I re-open?

If you had notified CIW that you were closing temporarily and are now looking to re-open you should notify CIW through the CIW Online system.  It would also be good practice to notify your local Family Information Service or childcare team in your Local Authority to ensure your service is promoted to parents or carers looking for childcare.  

If you had notified PACEY you were temporarily closing and are now re-opening you should notify PACEY, if you hold insurance and/or membership with us, by emailing support@pacey.org.uk.

Cwlwm have also published Top Tips to Remember for your Care Inspectorate Wales (CIW) Registered Childcare Setting whether it is open or closed during Covid-19 Outbreak.

Childcare numbers, wrap around care and travel

Are there limits to the number of children or families a provider can work with?

In line with the Guidance for childcare and playwork: coronavirus you will need to carefully risk assess and consider your approach and this may impact on the number and ages of children you decide to provide a service for.  This will be individual decision for settings to make in line with their own position and approach.  

Given the increasing role of vaccination, testing and contact tracing in mitigating the spread of COVID-19, the need for consistent contact groups in settings has lessened. From the 19th July 2021 group size should be based on NMS ratios and size of premises, and effective records kept for Test, Trace, Protect purposes.

The removal of the requirement to maintain consistent contact groups from the 19th July 2021 also applies to staff. However, staff are encouraged to minimise the extent to which they mix with other members of staff within a setting and to maintain physical distancing from other staff at all times. 

Settings should not allow staff or children to attend the setting when they should be self-isolating due to being symptomatic, being in the same household as someone who is symptomatic or having been identified by TTP as a contact of a positive case. Settings are asked to make this clear to staff and parents to ensure that the risk of transmission of the virus is reduced as far as possibleat the setting. Similarly, staff are encouraged to continue to take up the offer of vaccination, and of twice weekly LFD testing, both of which help to protect both staff and children from onward spread of the virus. 

Limiting social contacts continues to be an important part of reducing the likelihood of seeing large outbreaks of the virus. The fewer face to face contacts a person has, the easier it is for them to minimise their overall risk of infection. However, the overall number of face to face contacts an individual, or a family has, are matters for their own personal risk management decisions. Childcare settings cannot be responsible for interactions outside their remit.

Please see our new story on Contact Groups in Wales in relation to changes to the guidance from the 19th July 2021.

Please see the Covid-19 Childcare Toolkit for further guidance and support including COVID-19 Additional policies and procedure guidance for Wales.

Can wrap around childcare be provided for children who are attending school or another setting?

In line with the Guidance for childcare and playwork: coronavirus you will need to carefully risk assess and consider your approach and this may impact on the number and ages of children you decide to provide a service for.  This will be individual decision for settings to make in line with their own position and approach.  

The guidance states that for some families the use of out of school or wrap around childcare will be key to supporting children to return to school or other settings and parents to work. 

If the child is accessing both education and childcare, and this is taking place across two settings or sites, it will be important to ensure schools and childcare settings all understand the transition arrangements and are clear on when the child will be in each setting and what collection and transport arrangements are in place. 

Attendance at more than one setting is permissible and requires the continued implementation of control measures as well as detailed record keeping to facilitate contact tracing in the event of an outbreak. It is particularly important that parents of children requiring services across multiple sites are helped to adhere to the principle of avoiding attending any premises if they have COVID-19 symptoms, until they have had a negative PCR test. 

Settings should consider how they can work with parents to agree ways to manage any necessary journeys, including pick-ups and drop-offs at schools. Children over the age of 11 should wear face coverings while being transported by the setting. 

Where a staff member works across more than one setting during the same day, they are advised to ensure that they practice effective hand hygiene, change their clothes if possible and ensure they do not share resources between settings. All staff should be supported to take up the offer of vaccine if possible and to receive both doses.

Is a provider able to travel by car to drop off or pick up children from school or other settings?

In line with the Guidance for childcare and playwork: coronavirus you will need to carefully risk assess and consider your approach and this may impact on the number and ages of children you decide to provide a service for.  This will be individual decision for settings to make in line with their own position and approach. 

Settings should consider how they can work with parents to agree ways to manage any necessary journeys, including pick-ups and drop-offs at schools.

Where settings transport children, the guidance states the following mitigating actions that should be considered in order to reduce mixing and support contact tracing:

  • Use the same vehicle every day
  • Transport the same group of children every day
  • Transport to and from one school or setting
  • Allocate seats so that children can keep the same seats each day
  • Children aged over 11 should wear face coverings while being transported.

You should consider:

  • Is the journey by car essential? Is walking possible?
  • How can I manage hygiene – for example cleaning/handwashing/sanitising before and after journeys and children using the same seat on each trip as far as possible.
  • How will I discuss and share this information with parents on my approach?
  • How will I discuss my approach with the school or setting I am dropping off or collecting from?                              

Is a provider able to take children outside of the setting (for example on walks)?

In line with the Guidance for childcare and playwork: coronavirus you will need to carefully risk assess and consider your approach and this may impact on decisions you make. This will be individual decision for settings to make in line with their own position and approach and should be reflected in policies and procedures and shared with parents for agreement.  

Trips and visits can play an important role in enriching development as well as support children’s wellbeing.
Maximising time spent outdoors by children has physical, mental and developmental benefits and generally the risk of transmitting COVID-19 is lower outdoors compared to indoors. However, mitigating measures e.g. maintaining good hand hygiene, are still needed outdoors. Settings are encouraged to consider this in the planning of any visits.

Settings wishing to undertake domestic day visits should continue to undertake the usual risk assessment processes when planning visits. This risk assessment should include arrangements if a child develops COVID-19 symptoms during the visit. Travel time should be minimised wherever possible and consideration should be given the to the travelling safely (coronavirus): guidance for the public. Children over the age of 11 and adults may still be required by a destination venue to wear face coverings and/or socially distance, and this should be borne in mind when planning visits.

Please see the Covid-19 Childcare Toolkit for further guidance and support including COVID-19 Additional policies and procedure guidance for Wales.                                                                               

Social distancing in childcare and early years settings

How can I support social distancing in a childcare setting?

The Guidance for childcare and playwork: coronavirus published by the Welsh Government includes information relating to social distancing in childcare settings. 

Settings should consider:

  • Take all reasonable measures to minimise the risk of exposure to coronavirus, as legally required in all premises and workplaces open to the public;
  • Risk assess appropriately to evidence their approach
  • Ensuring staff physically distance from one another both during and outside of sessions
  • Consider the use of face coverings, particularly where there is adult to adult contact and social distance cannot be maintained
  • Ensure that only essential visitors attend the setting and adhere to the social distancing requirements whilst there
  • Essential visitors could include inspectors, learning support assistants, maintenance workers, healthcare workers and so on. Local authority staff may also need to visit the setting from time to time, in relation to funded schemes or wider support services. Parents who are considering using a setting for the care of their child would not be considered essential visitors (but visits to the setting can be arranged outside of operating hours). From time to time parents may also need to attend the setting to meet staff by invitation in relation to their children’s care;
  •  In addition, childminders will need to consider the presence of their own family during parent/carer visits, ensuring that they do not come into close contact with visitors. Visits should not take place if the visitors, the childminder or a member of the childminder’s family is self-isolating.
  • Consider staggering children arriving and leaving the childcare setting to avoid parents or carers gathering during drop off and pick up points;
  • Consider putting markers in outside spaces for parents or carers to keep to the 2 metre social distancing rule for drop off and collection if possible
  • Inform parents about the measures you are taking and seek their help to implement them

You will need to carefully risk assess and consider your approach, this will be an individual decision for settings to make in line with their own position. 

Childcare staff are required to provide close contact care for small children, including toileting, nappy changing and feeding. In these situations, the Infection Prevention and Control for Childcare Settings Guidance should be followed using aprons and gloves as necessary.  

Please see the Covid-19 Childcare Toolkit for further guidance and support including COVID-19 Additional policies and procedure guidance for Wales.

Can parents/carers visit my setting?

In line with the Guidance for childcare and playwork: coronavirus you will need to carefully risk assess and consider your approach.  This will be individual decision for settings to make in line with their own position and approach. 

During operating hours, only essential visitors are permitted to access childcare settings. While this includes parents/carers dropping off/picking up their children, it does not include parents/carers visiting the site when considering using the setting to care for their child. However, where precautions are taken and risk assessments allow, settings are able to facilitate parents/carers visiting a setting in the evenings or at weekends (outside normal operating hours) when considering using a setting for the care of their child. 

These visits are at the discretion of each setting. In addition to existing control measures within a setting,the following additional measures would be required for any visit to take place:

  • Only one parent/carer per visit (no siblings)
  • Only one member of staff conducts the visit
  • Visits are kept as short as possible
  • Toys and resources are not to be handled during the visit
  • Face coverings are worn by all adults at all times
  • Social distance is maintained during the visit
  • Hand hygiene is practised before and after the visit
  • The regulations around recording the visit for Test, Trace, Protect are followed

This type of visit needs to be reflected in your Coronavirus risk assessment. A record of the visit should be kept along with contact details of the visitors for contact tracing purposes. Settings will need to explain this in advance to those visiting.

Visits must not take place if any of the staff or parents involved:

  • Have COVID symptoms; or someone they live with has symptoms and therefore should be self-isolating
  • Have tested positive for covid and are self-isolating
  • Have been identified as a close contact or household contact of a positive case and are self-isolating.
  • Or where there is a likelihood that the control measures cannot be adhered to.

In addition, childminders will need to consider the presence of their own family during parent/carer visits, ensuring that they do not come into close contact with visitors. Visits should not take place if the visitors, the childminder or a member of the childminder’s family is self-isolating.

Visits are at the discretion of the setting and can only be undertaken where risk assessments allow and where the above requirements can be met.

On occasion it may be necessary to invite a parent to attend the setting to discuss matters relating to their child’s care. Again, such visits should be undertaken at the discretion of the setting, and after determining whether or not it is possible for the meeting to take place remotely.

What is classed as an essential visitor?

In line with the Guidance for childcare and playwork: coronavirus you will need to carefully risk assess and consider your approach.

During operating hours, settings should consider which visitors they allow into the setting.  Essential visitors would include inspectors, learning support assistants, maintenance workers, healthcare workers and so on. Local authority staff may also need to visit the setting from time to time, in relation to funded schemes or wider support services.

Please see the previous question in relation to parents/carers of children using or looking to use your service.

Settings should also consider their advice on face coverings for essential visitors and ensure essential visitors adhere to the social distancing requirements whilst there.

 

How do I manage drop offs and pick-ups at my own setting?

Welsh Government Guidance for childcare and playwork: coronavirus is encouraging there to be reduced contact between parents and carers when dropping off and picking up their children, for example by limiting drop off and pick up to one parent or carer per family and staggering timings. Do not allow parents or carers into the setting unless this is essential, and arrange for children to be collected at the door if this is possible.

As some young children will not have been attending a setting for a number of weeks and may be feeling anxious, work with parents and carers to consider how best to manage dropping off their children while maintaining physical distancing.

Avoid the need for parents and carers to wait, but where they have to, consider whether physical distancing markings could be used.

Consider how you can use technology to communicate with parents and carers digitally, for example when providing handover information at the end of the day.

Please see the Covid-19 Childcare Toolkit for further guidance and support including COVID-19 Additional policies and procedure guidance for Wales.

Should outdoor space in a setting be used?

The Guidance for childcare and playwork: coronavirus recommendsthe use of outdoor space. 

Children should spend as much time outdoors as possible as this can limit transmission and more easily allow for distance between the groups. Young children (those of primary school age or younger) can interact outside without social distancing. However, adults will need to continue to distance from one another.

Please see the Covid-19 Childcare Toolkit for further guidance and support including COVID-19 Additional policies and procedure guidance for Wales.

Health and Hygiene

What is legionnaires' disease and what do I need to do?

Legionnaires’ disease is a form of pneumonia which occurs when tiny droplets of water containing the legionella bacteria are inhaled into the lungs. This bacteria can be found in any purpose built water systems and builds up where a water supply has been shut down or had less use than normal. This will be particularly relevant to settings where no one has been on the premises or used the water system for a period of time..  Cwlwm have produced a factsheet on Legionnaires' Disease for childcare providers in Wales with supporting information and what needs ot be considered as part of any risk assessment.

Should face coverings be used in a childcare setting?

The Guidance for childcare and playwork: coronavirus states: 

Face coverings are not considered to be PPE and are not required in a childcare setting. However, where the setting feels their use would be needed, careful consideration should be given to how to do this appropriately and ensure the needs of children are met, particularly those with additional needs.  The guidance on use of face coverings in the Universal Guidance should be followed.

Settings should also ensure adequate waste bins on premises for those who choose to use single-use face coverings. Face coverings or visors are not PPE and would not prevent an individual being identified as a close contact by the TTP team.

Settings may wish to consider advising parents to wear face coverings when dropping off and picking up children where maintaining a social distance between staff and parents is difficult. Settings should also consider their advice on face coverings for essential visitors.

Where a setting is located on a school site they should ensure they understand and abide by the school policies on the use of face coverings and may wish to consult the school operational guidance.

Where settings are based on mixed-use sites, they should consult and adhere to the guidance provided for the site and the policies of the landlord on the wearing of face coverings in communal areas.

Any person who may not be able to adapt to face coverings as directed (e.g. young children, or those with special educational needs or disabilities) should not wear them as it may inadvertently increase the risk of transmission. If parents want children to wear face coverings the practicalities of how this can be managed within the setting should be discussed.

Children under the age of 3 should not wear face coverings at all for safety reasons.

If staff in childcare settings wish to wear face coverings, they may do so, as long as they follow the advice for safe and hygienic use. However, the impact on communication with children and children’s general well-being is critical to any considerations around whether staff wear face coverings.

The impact of wearing a face covering when caring for a deaf child should be carefully considered, as communication for many deaf people relies in part on being able to see someone’s face clearly. The National Deaf Children’s Society has provided the following communication tips via social media and their website which childcare staff may find useful in this regard.

Please see the Covid-19 Childcare Toolkit for further guidance and support around health and hygiene including COVID-19 Additional policies and procedure guidance for Wales.

How do I ensure adequate levels of ventilation in my setting?

Welsh Government Guidance for childcare and playwork: coronavirus states that where settings rely on natural ventilation including opening windows and doors to provide a supply of fresh air, this practice should continue to improve ventilation. It is however recognised that there will be a need to optimise the amount of fresh air entering a room whilst balancing this with thermal comfort (maintaining a reasonable temperature) and the risks associated with open windows. The Fire Safety Risk Assessment should always be reviewed before any internal doors are held open.

Windows and doors do not have to remain fully open to obtain the levels of fresh air required to provide good ventilation, they can be partially opened. Staff may need to be advised how to achieve the most appropriate ventilation in any setting and should start by consulting the HSE guidance. Additional ventilation can be achieved by ventilating rooms more fully between uses.

Whilst improving ventilation is a key control settings should continue to ensure that the wider controls of social distancing, hand washing, respiratory hygiene and enhanced cleaning as outlined in this guidance are implemented and maintained.

The Guidance for childcare and playwork: coronavirus contains further guidance in relaton to HSE reuqirements where staff are employed and also guidance for those using mechanical ventilation. 

Testing process 

What is the testing position in Wales for those working in childcare and play settings?

The Welsh Government has published information within the Guidance for childcare and playwork: coronavirus  in relation to testing and tracing.

In order to quickly detect asymptomatic adults and reduce the likelihood of clusters and outbreaks in settings and the disruption that brings to settings the Welsh Government made rapid-result coronavirus tests available to all staff working in childcare settings from February 2021.

Test at home kits are available to all open settings in order for staff to take twice weekly tests.

Testing is voluntary, but those who are eligible for tests are strongly encouraged to participate to further reduce the risk of asymptomatic transmission within the workplace.

Further information and advice on the testing offer is available.

What is the NHS Test and Trace app?

The new NHS Test and Trace app was launched in September in conjunction with the UK Government.

Checking in with the app will enable people to keep a diary of the locations they have visited, which will be held securely in the app. If there is a COVID-19 outbreak linked to their visit, users will get an early warning alert from the NHS.  If they have a positive test for COVID-19, people will be able to use the diary to tell contact tracing teams where they have been, helping to manage COVID-19 and protecting other people.

The Welsh Government has published guidance including how you can create a coronavirus NHS QR code to display in a poster in your setting. 

Symptoms, self-isolation and positive test results

What should a childminder do if they, or a household members, show symptoms or test positive for Coronavirus?

The Guidance for childcare and playwork:coronavirus has further information on testing and what individuals need to do. See also the Welsh Government's self isolation guidance.

In the case of a childminder who shows symptoms of COVID-19 or whose household member(s) show symptoms of COVID-19, the childminder and their household members would need to follow self-isolation and testing guidance. This would mean the setting would need to close until the childminder and their household members are able to end their isolation in accordance with the self-isolation and testing guidance.  CIW should be notified of any temporary closures through CIW online

It will be important that settings have a clear policy in place for the advent of a positive test for a child in their care or an adult working in the setting. They should require that the setting is informed, and enable them to follow up with all people who came into contact with that person during their time in the setting. They may need to share contact details of staff and children with the NHS Contact Tracers and must ensure they have the consent of all individuals accessing the setting to do this. 

What is the latest position on extended symptom testing?

The Guidance for childcare and playwork: coronavirus states:

Testing is being made available in some areas for those experiencing a wider range of symptoms such as fatigue, myalgia (muscle ache or pain), a sore throat, a headache, a runny nose, nausea, vomiting or diarrhoea. Individuals who take a test because of these other wider symptoms are not required to self-isolate while they await their PCR test result. This includes children who can continue to attend their childcare setting while they await a test result. They will need to self-isolate if the test result is positive. However, children and adults with diarrhoea and/or vomiting should not attend the setting until they are symptom-free for 48 hours, even if their PCR test result is negative.

People who are experiencing one or more of the three cardinal COVID-19 symptoms (new persistent cough, fever and/or loss of taste or smell) must continue to follow the NHS Wales Test, Trace, Protect guidance on testing and isolation and are required to self-isolate with their household whilst they await the PCR test result.

What is the position in relation to self-isolation?

The Guidance for childcare and playwork: coronavirus provides guidance on this.  See also the Welsh Government's self isolation guidance.

Children under the age of 18 are generally exempt from self-isolating if they are only a contact of someone who has symptoms or has tested positive (including household members) and do not have symptoms or have not tested positive themselves. If a child has symptoms themselves or has tested positive, then they must self-isolate.

If a member of a childminder’s household is notified by TTP to self-isolate, childminders are advised to contact their local Environmental Health Teams or PHW Health Protection Teams (0300 00 300 32) for advice. This supports the provision of advice specific to a childminder’s individual circumstances.  Providers do have to follow the advice of Public Health Wales if asked to close however.

CIW should be notified of any temporary closures through CIW online

It will be important that settings have a clear policy in place for these eventualities and for the advent of a positive test for a child in their care or an adult working in the setting. They should require that the setting is informed, and enable them to follow up with all people who came into contact with that person during their time in the setting. They may need to share contact details of staff and children with the NHS Contact Tracers and must ensure they have the consent of all individuals accessing the setting to do this. Please see the section below around ‘Contracts, policies and PACEY membership’ for further guidance on fees and contract related points.

Who do I need to notify of confirmed cases of COVID-19 in my setting?

CIW have stated that you should notify CIW of confirmed cases of COVID-19 of people using the service, staff and family members.

From 12 March CIW stated that you should notify CIW of confirmed and suspected cased of COVID-19 of people using the service, staff and family members. However, on 19 August CIW confirmed that as testing has rolled out and become more available, CIW believe the time is right to stop requesting notification of suspected COVID-19 cases. Providers should continue to notify CIW of each confirmed COVID-19 cases only – those with a positive COVID-19 test result.

Please use CIW Online to notify them and report as you would any infectious disease. If your childminding service is now temporarily closed, please inform CIW by emailing CIW@gov.wales

If you are closing due to the outbreak you should notify PACEY, if you hold insurance and/or membership with us, by emailing support@pacey.org.uk

The Welsh Government's Test, Trace, Protect strategy will also look to contain the spread of the virus and contacts for those who have tested positive will be contacted under the strategy and advised on what steps to take.

What should happen if a child develops symptoms of Coronavirus while in a childcare setting?

Settings will need to have a clear, written procedure in place for the protection of staff and children if a child develops symptoms while at the setting. PACEY Cymru have published COVID-19 additional policy guidance for members that is helpful when writing or reviewing policies and procedures. 

The Guidance for childcare and playwork: coronavirus states:

'Settings will need to have a clear, written procedure in place for the protection of staff and children if a child develops symptoms while at the setting. Their parent or carer should be called immediately and the child collected and taken home. Young sick children will need to be cared for until they are collected.

The child should be moved away from other children and cared for separately with appropriate adult supervision. If it is not possible to isolate the child, move them to an area which is at least 2 meters away from other children. Ideally, a window should be opened for ventilation. Disposable gloves, apron and a fluid resistant surgical mask should be worn if the child requires personal care or close contact. If a risk assessment determines that there is a risk of splashing to the eyes, for example from coughing, spitting, or vomiting, then eye protection should also be worn. 

If a child needs to go to the toilet while waiting to be collected, they should use a separate toilet if possible. The areas where a person suspected of having COVID-19 has been, including toilets, must be cleaned and disinfected. Gloves and aprons should be used when cleaning the areas where a person suspected of having COVID-19 has been. See section on Decontamination and Cleaning below.

If they need clinical advice, they (or a member of staff or their parent or carer) should go online to 111 Wales (or call 111 if they don’t have internet access). 

If a member of staff has helped a child or staff member who was taken unwell with symptoms of COVID-19 they do not need to go home unless they develop symptoms (new continuous cough, high temperature, loss of smell or taste) themselves. They should wash their hands thoroughly for 20 seconds after any contact with someone who is unwell and where possible should change into clean clothing.

Should there be a delay in a parent collecting a symptomatic child, please contact the local environmental health officer via your local council’s website. Children or staff members who are symptomatic should be tested. 

If any child or staff member tests positive for COVID-19, settings must notify Care Inspectorate Wales of positive test results.'

Contracts, policies and PACEY membership 

What about the contracts I already have with parents/carers?

There is a range of financial support available to childcare providers to help them cope with the financial impact of Coronavirus. Given this the Welsh Government have asked that providers are reasonable and balanced in their dealings with parents.

Generally, if you are unable to provide a service, you will be unable to charge normal fees.  You should check the specific terms of your contract with parents/carers to see if there is any provision that allows you to charge in these circumstances. Our view is that it is very unlikely for contracts to be specific enough for you to continue to charge for a long period of closure. The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) have now released consumer law guidance for the early years sector, which includes an open letter to the sector as well as published guidance on Covid-19 restrictions and consumer law advice for nurseries and early years settings. PACEY members can access additional information and FAQ's along with information to share with parents at consumer law and COVID-19.

It is always possible to vary a contract with agreement. As such you could attempt to negotiate a retainer fee with parents/carers and this would allow them to retain their space in the setting once the current crisis comes to an end. Do bear in mind though that we do not know when it will end, so parents/carers may not want to agree to such an open ended commitment.

Please see question below on 'Have PACEY made any amendments to current contracts?' for further information.

PACEY members can contact the legal team for advice on individual contracts.

Why do PACEY contracts not contain a force majeure clause?

Unfortunately, these are unprecedented circumstances.  The view of our legal team is that even with a force majeure clause, it would be extremely unlikely any business could continue to charge customers for a significant period of time without providing their services. In writing our PACEY contracts, we also have to be mindful of the unfair contract terms provisions contained in the Consumer Rights Act 2015.

There is a range of financial support available to childcare providers to help them cope with the financial impact of Coronavirus. Given this the Welsh Government have asked that providers are reasonable and balanced in their dealings with parents.

You will know your business and your parents best you could follow the example of some childcare settings who are not charging but are asking parents who can afford to pay, to pay a voluntary monthly retainer fee to help you stay viable and able to open your childcare business after the pandemic. Whilst not all parents will be able to do so, some may be happy to support you in this way as they will need your childcare service in the future.

What if I am unable to provide my service because I have been advised to self-isolate?

This situation would be treated as sickness and should be dealt with in the same way as sickness is dealt with your contract with the parent/carer. Typically, this means that you won’t charge fees for the period of your sickness/self-isolation. Always check the terms of your own contract with any particular parent.

Please see question below on 'Have PACEY made any amendments to current contracts?' for further information.

Childcare Offer for Wales funding may continue to be paid based on booked hours in some circumstances where Covid-19 is causing disruption to childcare services.  Your local authority may also be able to provide some funding to help with additional costs or loss in income which you are facing as a result of Covid-19. You should contact your local authority and discuss this with them.

We would suggest you contact your local authority if this becomes the situation for you to see what financial support is now available.  This will hopefully go some of the way to alleviating financial concerns for settings.

The UK Government and Welsh Government have also announced a package of support for workers and businesses.  Please see the sources of support page in our spotlight on Coronavirus for further information.

PACEY members can contact the legal team for advice on individual contracts.

Have 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.

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

Digital contracts are now available in Wales. These single-use contracts will be for childminders in Wales and are available to be purchased individually at digital childminder contract Wales. These contracts have been updated to cover enforced closures and pandemics. For help in completing digital contracts please see our provider FAQs.  

If you have already purchased a paper version of a PACEY registered childminding contract (Wales), we now have an addendum available, free of charge, to members to cover enforced closures. This will also be automatically added to your basket, free of charge, with the purchase of the Wales paper Childminding Contract. You will need to ensure that both parties sign and date it. This addendum should be stored securely with your contract.  

Please note any retainer charged during an enforced closure must be deemed to be fair and reasonable, and can only be used to cover unavoidable business costs.  Please see the CMA letter to the sector for further information and advice. 

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 

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.

Do I need to develop new policies and procedures for COVID-19?

You will need 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 Cymru has produced additional COVID-19 Policy Guidance to support you in the review of your policies and procedures.  You can also access further support in the  Covid-19 Childcare Toolkit.

 

If a setting is open but a child does not attend does that mean full fees apply?

This will depend on what you have agreed in your contract with parents. Remember that PACEY members have access to legal help and support for contract queries.

For Welsh Government or Local Authority funded childcare please see the section on financial queries, funding and support  below.

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.

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 are 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 queries, funding and support

I am not sure if I am eligible for the Self-employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS), how can I find out?

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

A fourth and fifth grant have now been introduced for the SEISS.

The fourth grant will provide a taxable grant calculated at 80% of three months’ average trading profits, capped at £7,500. Claims will be available from late April 2021 until 31 May 2021. To be eligible you must have traded in both tax years:

The fifth grant will be paid in a single instalment and is calculated differently to previous grants. This time the amount you will receive is calculated based on how much your turnover has been reduced in the year April 2020 to April 2021.

  • those with a turnover reduction of less than 30% are eligible for a grant of 30% of 3 months’ average trading profits, capped at £2,850
  • those with a turnover reduction of 30% or more are eligible for 80% of 3 months’ average trading profits, capped at £7,500

You will be able to claim for the fifth grant from late July if you are eligible, and guidance on how to apply for this will be published at the end of June. 

If you’re eligible based on your tax returns, HMRC will contact you in mid July 2021 to give you a date that you can make your claim from.

The Government have introduced an online tool to find out if you’re eligible to make a claim. Your tax agent or adviser can also use the online tool to check your eligibility on your behalf.

You’ll need your:

  • Self-Assessment Unique Taxpayer Reference (UTR) number
  • National Insurance number

If you’re eligible
HMRC will tell you the date you’ll be able to make your claim from, and ask you to add your contact details.

If you can claim straightaway you’ll also need your:

  • Government Gateway user ID and password - if you do not have a user ID, you can create one when you check your eligibility or make your claim
  • UK bank details (only provide bank account details where a Bacs payment can be accepted) including:
    • bank account number
    • sort code
    • name on the account
    • your address linked to your bank account

You’ll have to confirm to HMRC that your business has been adversely affected by coronavirus.

If you’re not eligible
HMRC will use the information you or your tax agent or adviser sent on your Self Assessment tax returns to work out your eligibility.

If you think you are eligible, you should first check who can claim or contact your tax agent or adviser for help.

If you still think you should be able to claim you can ask HMRC to review your eligibility.

HMRC has published guidance if you have made a claim in error and were not eligible for the grant, have been overpaid, or if you would like to make a voluntary repayment.

Do I have to stop working if I am claiming the SEISS?

No, unlike furlough, claiming under the SEISS doesn’t stop you working and earning in line with government guidance but it is all taxable income.

I employ staff, how can I use the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme?

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. You should consider taking advantage of the government’s Coronavirus job retention scheme (CJRS) / furlough scheme. Click on the link for further information.

Where employers receive public funding for staff costs, and that funding is continuing e.g. funded entitlement fees, the government expects employers to use that money to continue to pay staff in the usual fashion – and correspondingly not furlough them. This also applies to non-public sector employers who receive public funding for staff costs.

Once the scheme ends, you hopefully will have built your childcare business back up. If not, you may have to consider staff redundancy as one way to reduce business overheads.

If you are still delivering a service and have staff working for you, you may be able to apply for the new Business Interruption Loan to help you meet immediate expenses, for example wages bills. Read more.

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

The UK Government and Welsh Government have announced a package of support for workers and businesses.  Please see the sources of support page in our spotlight on Coronavirus for further information.

PACEY will continue to work with Welsh Government and lobby for support for 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 UK and Welsh Government , and we recently submitted evidence to the Treasury Committee.

If I am asked to undertake a deep clean by Welsh Government or other official body due to coronavirus, will the Welsh Government pay for this?

No.  Welsh Government have confirmed in their guidance that childcare settings will be required to fund any deep cleans required

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

Will Childcare Offer for Wales funding be available for eligible families?

The Welsh Government announced that the Childcare Offer for Wales providing 30 hours of early education and care to the working parents of 3 and 4 year olds reopened in September 2020.  

Applications from parents/carers whose child becomes eligible for the Offer in the autumn term will be considered from the start of September onwards.

Details on the timing and how to apply are available on local authority websites and through Family Information Services.

The revised Guidance for childcare providers on The Childcare Offer for Wales: coronavirus states that 'Childcare Offer funding may continue to be paid based on booked hours for a limited time in some circumstances where Covid-19 is causing disruption to your service. Your local authority may also be able to provide some funding to help with additional costs or loss in income which you are facing as a result of Covid-19. You should contact your local authority and discuss this with them.'

The UK Government and Welsh Government have also announced a package of support for workers and businesses.  Please see the sources of support page in our spotlight on Coronavirus for further information.

I have to close my setting because of self-isolation requirements is any funding available to support?

If ou are funded for the Childcare Offer for Wales funding may continue to be paid based on booked hours in some circumstances where Covid-19 is causing disruption to childcare services.  Your local authority may also be able to provide some funding to help with additional costs or loss in income which you are facing as a result of Covid-19. You should contact your local authority and discuss this with them.

We would suggest you contact your local authority if this becomes the situation for you to see what financial support is now available.  This will hopefully go some of the way to alleviating financial concerns for settings.

The UK Government and Welsh Government have also announced a package of support for workers and businesses.  Please see the sources of support page in our spotlight on Coronavirus for further information.

Will Flying Start funding be available for eligible families?

The Welsh Government's Children and Communities Grant (CCG) funds Flying Start services in Wales.  The Welsh Government FAQ's state that Flying Start services will also be managed at the local authority level. If you receive funding or are looking to become a funded provider please speak to your Local Authority childcare team.                                                                

Will Foundation Phase funding be available for settings who deliver funded early years education?

Welsh Government have stated 'The Welsh Government Foundation Phase Nursery funding is distributed via the Revenue Support Grant (RSG).  All decisions relating to how RSG is administered are for individual local authorities.  We understand local authorities have taken different approaches with some supporting settings whether they are open or closed.'

If a setting receives Foundation Phase Nursery funding we would advise them to contact their Local Authority to seek clarification on the continuation of funding.                              

Nannies

What guidance should nannies in Wales be following?

The Welsh Government have produced guidance to support nannies and their employers in relation to a number of key areas.  This can be found here

Employers of nannies may be eligible for support from the Job Retention Scheme if they meet the criteria that  is set out in the guidance.

Qualifications and training

My first aid certificate is due to expire what should I do?

CIW has recognised in its frequently asked questions that they are aware that there are some courses available which include a blend of one day online and one day practical (face to face) but that spaces are limited due to social distancing. Where you need to renew your first aid certificate and you cannot access a practical course, then in the first instance, you can undertake an online course to update your knowledge but then access a suitable practical course at the earliest possible opportunity.   

Specifically for those looking to apply to become a registered childminder in Wales CIW have stated that in the absence of a practical course they will accept an online course for the purpose of registration so as not to bring applications for registration to a halt due to the lack of practical courses. The inspector will talk to the applicant to ascertain that they feel confident to deal with any paediatric first aid emergency after doing only an online course. If the applicant does not feel confident then they should wait until a practical course is available before progressing their application. The inspector will also talk about the need to complete a practical course as soon as one becomes available.

PACEY Cymru work closely with Proactive First Aid in Wales who offer blended courses comprising online and practical elements.

Do I need to keep my child protection/Safeguarding training up-to-date?

The NMS says 'a designated member of staff has attended a child protection training course and is responsible for liaison with child protection agencies in any child protection situation (20.4)'

Whilst there is no time limit on when you need to review this, good practice is that this should be updated every three years. Whilst we rightly have focus on Covid-19 at the moment, it is important to remember that safeguarding is still a real and relevant part the job.

Our members can take the CACHE endorsed, PACEY Safeguarding course free as part of their member benefits, log in to MyPACEY to access now. Non-members can buy the same online training course for just £19.99.

Do you have training available that covers food safety and hygiene?

Yes. Our Level 2 food safety and hygiene for early years settings course is accredited by the Royal Society of Public Health (RSPH) and will give you the guidance you need.

If you provide food in your childcare setting it's important that you have a relevant qualification. Our online course could be done now, or when you are fully operational again. It is available to buy online for £32.99, and PACEY members can access the same course for just £20.00.

Will any CPD that I do during enforced closure be valid?

Yes. In fact, this could be the ideal time for you to take undertake some form of CPD or online training. 

Our members can access a host of additional CPD resources, including our magazine, factsheets, practice guides, and online courses, in MyPACEY

PACEY launched EY smart for Wales in June which has new, free, short courses available. You can access our newest courses tackling topics including bereavement, emotional wellbeing, and handwashing to support your business and the children in your setting.

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

Other

My gas safety certificate is due for renewal what should I do?

Where settings are required by CIW to have a gas safety certificate (or other relevant certiciates for appliances and fitttings) these are still required to be kept up to date.   

Welsh Government state that work carried out in people’s homes, for example by tradespeople, can continue.  Both the tradesperson and household members should be well and have no symptoms of coronavirus. Please see the self-isolation guidance for more information.  Like other businesses, tradespeople must take all reasonable measures to ensure that social distancing and other appropriate safety measures are maintained at all times when working in other people’s households. Please see the guidance on reasonable measures for more information.

As a childcare setting risk assess the visit and document as necessary.  Please see the Covid-19 Childcare Toolkit for further guidance and support including COVID-19 Additional policies and procedure guidance for Wales.

Welsh Government recommend no work should be carried out in any household which is isolating or where a person who is classed as extremely vulnerable is undertaking ‘shielding’ measures, unless it is to repair a fault which poses a direct risk to people’s safety – for example, emergency plumbing. If a childminder or household member is shielding and needs to have a gas safety check completed we would advise them to contact CIW to discuss.

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.

The tips and advice on the NHS Every Mind Matters page are things you can do now to help you keep on top of your mental wellbeing and cope with how you may feel while staying at home. Make sure you get further support if you feel you need it.

How can I support children's well-being at this challenging time?

PACEY has drawn together a resource on supporting children in your setting that contains helpful information and guidance.

The Children's Commissioner has launched a bilingual  Coronavirus information hub with information, advice, blogs and videos for children, young people and those that care for them.  It includes a resource for discussing the virus with very young children, play ideas and resources for discussing rights with young children.

What is the social care worker card and how do I get one?

This is a card available from Social Care Wales that identifies social care workers and confirms they are key workers in fighting the current pandemic. Early years and childcare workers who work in registered childcare or play settings are eligible for the card if they are still working.

Most of the major supermarket chains have already formally agreed to provide cardholders with priroity access at their stores in Wales and they can also be used if travelling to work to confirm key worker status.

Social Care Wales have published Frequently Asked Questions on the card that includes the benefits this card brings.

E-mails have been sent by Social Care Wales to the responsible individuals for childcare settings that they know are still open from information sent to us by local authorities and CIW with instructions on what to do.If your setting is open and you have not received an email and wish to access a card please contact Social Care Wales.