Closed petition Issue urgent guidance and voucher scheme to save baby & toddler activity sector

Baby and toddler groups are crucial for the wellbeing of new parents who are desperate for them to return after lockdown. Providers are struggling to reopen due to conflicting guidance. We call on government to issue targeted guidance and a voucher scheme for this overlooked sector.

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So far guidance has covered adult groups and children’s groups, but not 'parent & baby' activities. The advice is conflicting and class sizes unviable, especially with babies included in headcount. Bespoke guidance will enable businesses to return and save new parents from extended isolation.

In addition, smaller covid safe classes will be unaffordable for many parents, while Children's Centres remain closed. A voucher scheme would aid this sector's recovery and support postnatal mental health.

This petition is closed All petitions run for 6 months

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Government responded

This response was given on 14 August 2020

Government has issued guidance to enable the reopening of community activities including baby and toddler groups and made available a range of financial support available to support businesses.

Read the response in full

The Government remains committed to improving perinatal mental health services for new mothers and their partners. Since April 2019, new and expectant mothers have been able to access specialist perinatal mental health community services in every part of the country. Community health services have continued to provide support during the pandemic through greater use of digital and remote technologies, prioritising higher needs families.

Baby and toddler groups are important community facilities crucial to the wellbeing of new parents. Activities for young children and their families, such as baby and toddler groups, can operate provided they follow relevant government guidance, including guidance for community facilities which are now able to open for the provision of services for children and young people. Guidance on which premises and businesses are legally able to open can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/further-businesses-and-premises-to-close.

Baby and toddler groups should also have regard to, and where relevant, ensure they are following government guidance on the safe use of multi-purpose community facilities, which can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-guidance-for-the-safe-use-of-multi-purpose-community-facilities. Ofsted registered early years providers should ensure they are following DfE guidance for early years and childcare providers, which can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-early-years-and-childcare-closures.

Information on the range of support the government has made available to businesses can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/coronavirus/business-support.

Further information on business support for registered early years providers can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-financial-support-for-education-early-years-and-childrens-social-care/coronavirus-covid-19-financial-support-for-education-early-years-and-childrens-social-care.

Given the guidance and support that has already been made available to enable community facilities and businesses including baby and toddler groups to reopen, the Government does not believe it is necessary to issue guidance or set up a voucher system specifically for the baby and toddler sector.

Department for Education

Other parliamentary business

Petitions Committee welcomes victory for baby and toddler groups

A campaign by petitioners, including the creator of this petition who gave evidence to a Petitions Committee inquiry, has resulted in the Government updating its guidance to exempt baby and toddler groups from gatherings limits in all tiers.

The Committee’s inquiry into the impact of Covid-19 on maternity and parental leave heard that parent, baby and toddler groups were vital for the mental health of new parents. In its landmark report, the Committee urged the Government to meet with the sector to ensure necessary support was received.

The Committee wrote to the Government in September when it emerged the lack of clarity within the guidance was forcing many groups to close.

Chair of the Petitions Committee, Catherine McKinnell said:

“The recent addition of parent, baby and toddler groups to the list of exemptions from gathering limits in all tiers is a clear, if long overdue, acknowledgement by the Government that they are vital to young families and our society as a whole.

“Our inquiry heard compelling evidence from new parents and experts on how crucial these groups can be for the mental health of new parents, providing support and a much-needed lifeline at such an important time in their lives.

“This addition to the guidance on exemptions is testament to our petitioners and campaigners who worked tirelessly to demand clarity for the sector, and of the power of the petitions system.

“Because of these petitioners’ drive for change, many who otherwise might not have had the support they need will be able to access these groups during what has been, and continues to be, an extremely challenging time for new parents.”

What does the new guidance say?

With the updated guidance now explicitly mentioning these groups, many are now clearly exempt from gatherings limits. The official exemptions in all tiers include:

• Supervised activities provided for children, including wraparound care (before and after-school childcare), groups and activities for under 18s, and children’s playgroups, for formal support groups, and parent and child groups – up to 15 people aged five and older.

• In the guidance for early years and childcare providers, the following exemptions are included:
o Parent and child groups that meet in Ofsted registered settings can operate in all local restriction tiers.
o Groups meeting in community spaces, such as in a place of worship, community centre or library, can operate in all local restriction tiers and should follow COVID secure guidance for the venue.

Read the full guidance here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-early-years-and-childcare-closures/coronavirus-covid-19-early-years-and-childcare-closures#parent-and-child-groups

Read about the Committee’s report here: https://houseofcommons.shorthandstories.com/how-has-maternity-and-parental-leave-been-impacted-by-coronavirus-/index.html

Read the letter to the Government here: https://committees.parliament.uk/publications/2699/documents/26695/default/
And the Government’s reply here: https://committees.parliament.uk/publications/2970/documents/28398/default/