Nursery owner: early years staff 'overlooked' in Covid fight

Create a master piece at the clay workshop. Picture: BRIAN A JACKSON

Early years care settings have remained open during the third national lockdown, while schools have closed. - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

The owner of a Suffolk nursery has said early years care staff feel "overlooked" in the fight against Covid-19 - and is calling for greater reassurance from the government.

Claire Bewley, who runs Little Explorers Childcare, near Bury St Edmunds, said her staff members are "worried" they could be taking the virus home to vulnerable family members. 

She called on the government to increase support and put early years staff on vaccine priority lists - as they remain open, while other schools have closed. 

"I think early years just keep getting ignored, despite the fact we have an important role in this lockdown," she said. 

Claire Bewley, owner of Little Explorers Childcare in Pakenham, near Bury St Edmunds. 

Claire Bewley, owner of Little Explorers Childcare in Pakenham, near Bury St Edmunds. - Credit: Little Explorers Childcare

"I can understand why we need to be open. The economy has got to keep going and people need childcare. 

"But there could be much more support for nurseries and I think we should be prioritised for vaccination, as well as teachers."

Ms Bewley added that, despite working hard to ensure her nursery is as Covid-safe as possible, it is "impossible" to stay socially distanced from the children. 

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She added: "These aren't secondary school children who you can sit behind a desk. 

"We are doing everything we can to try and keep the virus at bay here.  

"We are washing hands and keeping parents out of the nursery, but it is impossible to stay socially distanced when you are looking after young children. 

"The children we have need a cuddle, they fall over, they need comfort, they need their nappies changed. 

"We can't not go near them." 

Currently, the government is prioritising those aged above 70, people who are most vulnerable and front-line health care workers with the coronavirus vaccines. 

They have said that in the "second phase" of vaccinations teachers, transport workers and the military could be prioritised, but more data on how well the vaccines are working will be needed before that decision is made.

Meanwhile, staff at the Little Explorers Childcare have Covid-19 testing slots in Ipswich if they are needed.

"It feels like they are overlooking us," Ms Bewley said. 

"All of my staff are wonderful, they are happy to be working and they don't complain.

"But they are worried they could take it home to their family, who might be vulnerable. There is a risk every day. 

"I think knowing that we are on a priority list for vaccines would be really reassuring for the staff."