Sheffield nursery boss slams government over treatment of 'forgotten sector'
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Dr Sipra Deb, who owns three nurseries, is furious at the ‘blatant disregard’ for their role, which ensures frontline and critical staff can work in the pandemic.
When it took hold, they were urged to stay open but received no grants, insurers refused to pay out and staff were unable to access furlough in the same way as others, she said.
This led to the businesses running at ‘massive losses,’ although the sites – Seeds to Stars on Little London Rd; Wickersley Nursery and Moorgate Daycare Nursery - stayed open to ‘do their bit’ to help.
Dr Deb said nursery workers were overlooked for thanks because they weren’t seen as frontline despite social distancing being impossible with children, resulting in staff falling ill.
She added: “We work with children all day giving them a cuddle or hug because they need it. We get coughed and sicked on but we take it in our stride.
“Yes we have the choice of wearing PPE, but we often overlook this because we don’t want the children to feel strange."
They were also ‘bottom of the pile’ for lateral flow testing and PPE because, as a private business, they should pay for their own, she added.
Then, earlier this month, there was a ‘monumental cock up’ on vaccines when the National Booking System was opened to frontline health and social care workers.
Some early years workers booked after being told they were eligible by local authorities or employers - but were turned away at vaccine centres.
Dr Deb added: “We should have been amongst the first along with the frontline workers to be vaccinated! I want my sector’s contribution to be acknowledged and I’m sick of us being at the bottom of the pile.”
A spokeswoman for the Department of Health and Social Care said ‘very few children’ were considered clinically extremely vulnerable to Covid-19.
She added: “To be prioritised for vaccination as frontline health and care worker you must be at high risk of acquiring COVID-19 infection but also of transmitting that infection to multiple persons who are particularly vulnerable to COVID-19 as well as to other staff in a healthcare environment.”