Third of London’s early years care forced to shut due to isolation

·2-min read
A survey carried out by the Early Years Alliance found that in London, 34 per cent of nurseries, pre-schools and childminders have had to close  (PA Archive)
A survey carried out by the Early Years Alliance found that in London, 34 per cent of nurseries, pre-schools and childminders have had to close (PA Archive)

More than one third of London nurseries and childminders have had to close due to staff self-isolating over the past two months, research suggests.

It comes as the Government was warned that NHS staff could be prevented from working if child carers are not made exempt from isolation rules.

A survey carried out by the Early Years Alliance found that in London, 34 per cent of nurseries, pre-schools and childminders have had to close fully or partially since June 1 because staff were self-isolating after being exposed to someone with Covid.

Almost 90 per cent of early years providers look after children of key workers, the Alliance said.

Michelle Sweeney, manager of Rooftops Nursery in Camden, has had to close the nursery once fully and three times partially since June 1.

On one occasion four members of staff were self-isolating and some parents had to keep their children at home so the nursery could continue to run.

Parents at the nursery include a critical care nurse, paramedic, veterinary nurse, health visitor and teacher.

Ms Sweeney said: “Our parents are very understanding but it is disastrous for them if we have to close.” She added: “We do lateral flow tests twice a week, we check the children’s temperatures, we sterilise everything and... do two hours of extra cleaning every night. When we have closed we have to give parents refunds and we have lost money.”

Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Alliance, said: “Who exactly does the Government think is looking after the young children of NHS staff, carers, food workers and other critical staff, and ensuring they can go to work?”

The NHS app that alerts people they need to self-isolate has now been tweaked so fewer people will be affected.

A spokeswoman for the Early Years Alliance said this will not solve the problem for childcare workers, who would still have to isolate if in contact with family members, colleagues, children or friends with Covid.

Early years organisations were told to remain open at the start of this year when schools were closed because they were seen as low-risk Covid environments. Mr Leitch added: “It beggars belief therefore that now, when self-isolation rules are playing havoc not only with providers’ ability to remain financially sustainable, but also their ability to provide the care and education that working parents need, we are once again the forgotten sector.”

The Government has said some workers have been given exemptions from self-isolation to ensure “services critical to the safety and functioning of our society” can continue. A spokeswoman added: “We are hugely grateful to early years professionals.”

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