Nurseries are closing as staff are asked to self-isolate by Covid contact tracers, according to an industry body.
The Scottish Private Nursery Association said its warning several weeks ago that childcare facilities may suffer from staff shortages was being realised.
Working families are being left without childcare as a result of the escalating number of positive cases and nursery workers being identified as close contacts, it said.
And as it blamed a lack of clear and consistent advice for temporary closures, a Perthshire nursery owner told of us the pressure businesses like his are under.
Toby Hartley’s Cornerstones Nursery, in Blairgowrie, remains open but was down a member of staff last week and the week before due to self isolation and he fears more of his team being ‘pinged’.
It’s the unknown… Tomorrow you could have a phone call saying two members of have been contacted.”
Toby Hartley, Cornerstones Nursery
The nursery has around 80 children in its care and Toby said: “It’s the unknown of it. Tomorrow you could have a phone call saying two members of staff have been contacted and suddenly you are two members of staff down.
“It’s a significant impact and you can’t plan for it.”
While unaware of any nurseries in the area having to close as a result of Covid, he did know of some where bubbles had closed due to a lack of staff.
At a nursery in Livingston which had to close its doors, SPNA chief executive Sharon Fairley said parents – including hospital staff, emergency services personnel and teachers – could have to miss work if their children’s nurseries are affected.
She said: “Several weeks ago, we warned that this could be the situation. We said then that if measures weren’t put in place, and there wasn’t clear advice to the ELC sector, then nurseries would face having to close.
“Sadly, this is exactly what has happened.”
In a sector already experiencing a ‘severe’ staff shortage, she said there wasn’t the capacity to draft in cover for pinged workers.
‘Lack of clear advice’
And a lack of clear, consistent advice, she said, led to some owners closing to be on the safe side.
“We’re hearing from the sector that some owners are being told to wait for advice, for example from Test and Trace – advice which sometimes never arrives or might be inconsistent with other government advice.
“For example, even when parents test positive, their three-year-old is still allowed to come to nursery – although no one can explain how the child is meant to get there.”
Impact ‘closely monitored’
The impact of the pandemic on childcare services and their staff is being “closely monitored” by the Scottish Government.
A spokeswoman said: “Nurseries are following a robust set of Covid-19 safety measures which, thanks to the hard work of staff, have helped to keep levels of transmission in early learning and childcare (ELC) settings low.
“Under changes that came in on August 9, adults identified as close contacts of someone who has tested positive for Covid-19 are no longer automatically required to self-isolate for 10 days, provided they are double-vaccinated, with at least two weeks passed since their second dose, they have no symptoms and they return a negative PCR test.
“These changes will significantly reduce the length of time that staff need to spend away from work.”