By Clare Roberts, CEO of Kids Planet
At this challenging time when we rightly applaud our NHS frontline workers, and when we need to pull together to fight the Coronavirus Pandemic, why is it that we are punishing the childcare sector?
It’s been reported that childcare is failing NHS workers. That a lack of childcare is forcing key workers to ‘stay at home’.
But what about the many childcare professionals who continue to work in high-risk situations to care for those children of frontline workers? Those children in our care don’t understand the importance of social distancing. They can’t be cared for, cuddled or nurtured from a ‘safe distance’. They require and are entitled to the same level of comfort, love and care today as at any other time. And yet the overwhelming commitment and attention being shown to these children are being ignored rather than applauded. Our staff are making a real difference to the lives of many and still, the sector is criticised.
At Kids Planet, we’ve always encouraged our employees to see childcare as a profession, not just a job. And never have we seen that playout so clearly as during this pandemic. Childcare practitioners should be applauded for being so incredible, kind, calm and patient during these difficult times.
And yes, as a group, we have been forced to close several of our nurseries. We are doing our utmost to keep nurseries open where we can, where it is safe and where we have management in place to make it safe for all.
Where nurseries have had to close, the decision has not been taken lightly and has not been one driven by finances. Our staff continue to be paid 100% despite the government’s 80% job retention scheme because we value our staff and we want them to be here when this is all over. We’re not charging parents when their child is not in nursery. The reality is, we are losing more money by staying open than if we closed all our nurseries; we’ve taken the decision to stay open and remain operational when financially, it doesn’t make sense.
Of course, we recognise that for key workers reliant on childcare to be able to continue to work in our hospitals, the temporary closure of nursery is far from ideal. But our industry rightfully dictates we legally adhere to staff-to-child ratios to ensure children remain safe. We have a duty of care to uphold, we need to keep our staff and our children secure.
And those staff want to do their bit. They want to come into work, and they want to maintain the close bonds they develop with the children in their care. We’ve witnessed a tangible sense of community with practitioners demonstrating incredibly positive attitudes, going the extra mile to keep our children secure whilst supporting our critical NHS workers. Their kindness and strength have overwhelmed us all.
We want to work with the community to fight this pandemic, not against them. And, as childcare providers, we passionately believe in supporting all unsung heroes during this crisis. This is why we’re donating 60,000 disposable gloves to supermarkets across the North West of England to help customers be better protected when shopping for essential items. We’re trying to do our bit, yet it seems we are being punished, with the efforts of our staff going unrecognised. Vicky Ford, Minister for Children and Families recently recognised the work we are doing but it seems the wider press do not.
So, we’re asking you – please don’t turn on the sector, we need a balanced view of what’s happening, we need to recognise just how amazing these childcare key workers are.
Why is the childcare sector being punished so readily? Why are childcare professions not being recognised for the essential work they are doing in high-risk situations? When will it be acknowledged that their dedication, enthusiasm and strength is something to be applauded as part of the wider effort in combating this terrible virus? When this is all over, and it will be over, who will be there to look after the nation’s young children if we don’t recognise them during this crisis?