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7 May 2020
By The Early Years and Childcare Service

Early Years and Childcare Coronavirus Blog Issue 3

Welcome and Introduction from Alex Gamby

Hello everyone, once again,

Well we have another week of lockdown behind us, which has to mean that we are one week closer to things starting to change. Particularly I am sure you are, as are we, contemplating what national announcements and requirements this weekend will bring. We will, of course, be immediately considering the implications of these for the Early Years and Childcare Sector and taking action and communicating with you as appropriate and necessary.

You will recall, I hope, that in last week’s issue of this blog I was able to tell you that KCC is introducing a Financial Distress Payment for those providers who are currently open and under immediate financial pressure where there is a risk you are unable to continue to provide a service. This was followed up on Monday by a letter from Matt Dunkley (Corporate Director, Children, Young People and Education) on the same subject. If you missed last week’s blog, you can access it here.

We have been working with KCC this week to finalise the criteria and process for open providers in relation to the Financial Distress Payment and (in the context of this being a shorter week due to the bank holiday tomorrow) will be communicating with all open providers accordingly on Monday next week.

In the meantime, my key messages to you are to continue to do whatever you are able to, stay safe and well and thank you for everything you continue to do.

I hope you have a pleasant long weekend and can enjoy some rest and relaxation and (hopefully!) some sunshine.
Yours, as ever
Alex Gamby

Public Health England (PHE)

In recent weeks there have been incidents where, in response to a suspected COVID-19 case, schools and settings have tried to contact PHE for advice and unfortunately inaccurate advice has been given. On these occasions we think that advice has come from the national helpline. Therefore, this is simply a reminder that schools and settings should always contact the local PHE service using the following contact details: Kent Health Protection Team Telephone: 0344 225 3861 (option 0 then option 1) Out of hours advice: 0844 967 0085.

Government guidance for this week

Changes to the law on education, health and care needs assessments and plans due to coronavirus
The notice does not absolve local authorities (for special educational provision and social care) or health commissioning bodies (for health care provision) of their responsibilities under section 42: rather they must use their ‘reasonable endeavours’ to secure or arrange the provision. This means that local authorities and health bodies must consider for each child and young person with an Education Health and Care (EHC) plan what they can reasonably provide in the circumstances during the notice period.

In addition to the changes to the law about securing or arranging provision in EHC plans, from 1 May to 25 September 2020 (inclusive) the Regulations which provide most of the statutory timescales for the EHC needs assessments and plans processes will be modified. (First published 30/4/2020)

Special educational needs and disability code of practice: 0 to 25 years Added link to guidance on 'Changes to the law on education, health and care needs assessments and plans due to coronavirus'. (Updated 30/4/2020)

What parents and carers need to know about schools and other education settings during the coronavirus outbreak Added information about the May bank holiday: early year providers should decide, in consultation with the parents of children who are currently attending, whether it is necessary for them to continue to look after critical workers’ children and vulnerable children on Friday 8 May. (Updated 1/5/2020)

Coronavirus (COVID-19): business support grant funding – guidance for businesses Guidance updated to include information on tax. (Updated 1/5/2020)

Coronavirus (COVID-19): guidance Coronavirus (COVID-19) updates and information in British Sign Language can be accessed on SignHealth’s website. (Updated 1/5/2020)

COVID-19: testing for council workers Letter thanking councils in England for their support during the pandemic and outlining how staff can get tested. (First published 1/5/2020)

Emergency funding to support most vulnerable in society during pandemic Communities Secretary announces £76 million extra funding to support survivors of domestic abuse, sexual violence and vulnerable children and their families and victims of modern slavery. (First published 2/5/2020)

Top-up to local business grant funds scheme A discretionary fund has been set up to accommodate certain small businesses previously outside the scope of the business grant funds scheme. (First Published 2/5/2020)

Coronavirus (COVID-19): attendance in education and early years settings Updated spreadsheets and added ‘Coronavirus (COVID-19) attendance in education settings: 30 April 2020 summary’. (updated 5/5/2020)

Eligibility for government childcare offers protected Temporary measures ensure critical workers will still be eligible for childcare offers if their income has changed due to coronavirus. (First published 5/5/2020)

Key points:

Parents who are normally eligible for the government’s childcare offers will continue receiving the entitlements during the summer term if their income levels fall due to the impact of coronavirus.

Parents are required to reconfirm their eligibility for 30 hours free childcare and Tax-Free Childcare quarterly. The 30 hours deadline for the summer term has been extended to 31 August to give working parents additional time to protect their place.

Local authorities can extend the validity dates on the 30 hours codes received by parents who are critical workers during the summer term, ensuring those who are eligible can access the childcare offer despite having missed their reconfirmation date or the application deadline of 31 March 2020.

Critical workers who can access schools or educational settings List of critical workers who can send their children to school or other educational settings during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. Guidance title amended to help users find it. No change to the content. (Updated 5/5/2020)

Frequently Asked Questions

The Early Years and Childcare Service has published a Frequently Asked Questions document which regularly updated and is on KELSI and can be accessed by this link.

Good Practice

Examples of how settings have supported vulnerable or key worker children

This week we have some examples of good practice from providers in the north and south of the county:

A nursery in North Kent has shared that they ask children to send photos or videos, where they would like to, of Makaton signs they have been practising and they are posting ad hoc story time videos, cookery videos and planting and growing videos recorded by the teachers.

Here’s an update from the manager of a setting in South Kent on how she is managing to maintain links with children and families:

Each Monday I email every family who could be accessing care as essential workers to make sure they are managing their family’s needs.  They are all made aware that if we are needed, we will open to provide that care.  We have one vulnerable child whose family didn't want to continue sending him but wanted to do as the other families had done and follow the guidance that children should stay at home where possible.  For this family I keep in touch weekly with his social worker who has been added to his tapestry account.

Last week I texted every family for an update on how they are doing.  About fifty percent replied eventually; those who didn't got a follow up text, an email or a phone call.  I have now had contact either via text, email or tapestry with every single family all of whom have my mobile number if they need me.

From the very first day of lockdown we have been posting ideas of things for families to do with their children via our Facebook page and our online learning journeys.

Last week I read a story on video which we shared on Facebook and tapestry.  I am always absent in any photos as I hate having my picture taken but I bit the bullet.  I had a comment today from a family to say thank you - they used it as their bedtime story last night. So much positive feedback from this it may well become a weekly event.

We have plans in the pipeline for the whole team to produce a clip of some sort to be posted, Hayley has been practising a mystery bag and Sarah has videoed a Rainbow painting activity.

We are launching our fundraising event this week to help keep the coffers full.  We are challenging the children to learn the rainbow song which was something we sent out at the start of lockdown and to sing it on parents’ social media with a link to our fundraising page.  Each child taking part will get a certificate and a small keepsake.

We plan to include the whole staff team in this as well with a promise from a student to edit the video.

I also text all the team each week to check they are ok and the committee is having a WhatsApp meeting every Thursday.

I can safely say that I have probably worked more hours since lockdown and it has been more stressful than anything imaginable.  I just hope that when this is all over, we will come back stronger and better than ever. I am not about to let this beat me after all the effort I put into getting our setting set up since 2003.

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