Covid Scotland: Nurseries call for staff to be exempt from isolation amid staff shortage

The Scottish Private Nursery Association (SPNA) is calling on the Scottish Government to include nursery care givers as key workers under the exemption to isolate if “pinged”.

The association said private nurseries were the single largest source of nursery care places in Glasgow, Edinburgh and Dundee and their surrounds, and provide 40 per cent of all nursery places across the whole of Scotland.

During school holidays, the private nursery sector provides the overwhelming majority of nursery care, as almost 85 per cent of local authority nurseries attached to schools are closed.

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However, many nurseries are struggling due to large numbers of staff having to self-isolate.

Private nurseries have asked to be exempt from having to isolate if a close contact of a positive Covid case

Last week, the Scottish Government announced critical workers are to be exempt from self-isolation as key sectors warned of staff shortages due to large numbers of staff having to isolate due to coming into contact with someone who tested positive for Covid-19.

Only industries where staff shortages are in danger of putting essential services, such as health and social care, transport and the provision of food supplies, at risk are eligible for exemption under the new rules.

Staff must be double-vaccinated and in receipt of their second dose at least two weeks previously. They will also require to have a negative PCR test and to agree to undertake daily lateral flow tests.

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Covid Scotland: Critical workers in Scotland set to avoid self-isolation

Sharon Fairley, founder and chief executive of the SPNA – which was formed this year by concerned private nursery owners to represent the sector and to represent the interests of parents who often require longer care hours for their children – has described the situation facing nurseries around Scotland as “deeply concerning”.

She said: “The reality is that many of our frontline workers – our NHS doctors and nurses, our ambulance drivers, police, firemen and women, even our supermarket truck drivers – rely on being able to place their children in nursery in order to attend their own job.

Nurseries have to maintain set staff-to-child ratios, a requirement that is already being made harder by the expectations of safe distancing at work because of Covid-19.

"Many of the safe work requirements – such as staff maintaining social distancing from each other – are understandably difficult to achieve within a nursery setting.

"While the sector is managing to get by using relief staff, we are constantly facing the prospect of a downgraded rating by the Care Inspectorate. Maintaining standards could be just impossible if we get hit by the ‘pingdemic’. That could see nurseries having to close, meaning our frontline workers are potentially absent from their own critical work.”

Ms Fairley added: “There is already a significant shortage in the number of qualified nursery workers, something which is affecting the whole industry – private nurseries, local authority nurseries, and those in the independent and not-for-profit sector.

"Our workers are predominantly younger and so may not have been offered both jags yet, so there is a greater risk that they will be impacted by a self-isolation order. The private nursery sector needs to do everything we can to hold on to the staff that are double jagged to avoid nursery closures.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “We are continuing to actively review the latest scientific evidence and expert clinical advice alongside the current state of the pandemic, and will use this to inform any decisions, working closely with trade unions and professional organisations when considering next steps.

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