A new research report, published today, reveals that childcare, play and early years workers felt undervalued and underappreciated during the Covid-19 pandemic. This was despite thank you campaigns and ministerial messages of thanks.
They also felt they weren’t always seen as professional workers, unlike others working with children such as teachers.
The report, National Conversations with the Childcare, Play and Early Years Sector in Wales, aims to better understand the experiences of those working in the childcare, play and early years sector during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The report looks at a number of areas that affected the sector, including staff well-being and morale, the support available to businesses, staffing, and training and qualifications. It also considers the sector’s needs going forward.
The report reveals the sector felt the communication they received during the pandemic wasn’t always clear and they didn’t always feel their voices had been heard. Communication with the sector was frequent, but due to the ever-changing Covid-19 landscape not all the messages were heard.
Despite learning providers reporting significant issues with learner placements during the pandemic, settings reported positive learning and development opportunities. Many settings and umbrella organisations reported an increase in the uptake of online learning among their staff.
A number of settings told the researchers they had experienced some issues with staffing and had concerns about sustainability. Nevertheless, most were complimentary about the furlough scheme and the other financial support they’d been offered to keep their businesses going.
Most had accessed some business support and the level of support available was considered useful and welcome. But some found the process of applying for support a burden.
Looking to the future, most of those who took part in the research were upbeat and positive about what the next six to 12 months would bring. Many, though, were keen to stress that they would like to be seen as professional workers like other parts of the children’s workforce.
The report made six recommendations to address the findings.
One of the main recommendations was the need to support the Welsh Government’s ambition to develop a skilled childcare and play workforce that is highly regarded as a profession and recognised for the vital role it plays in supporting children’s development.
The report also strongly recommended that the sector receives more visible and clearer communication and guidance going forward.
At Social Care Wales, we very much welcome the recommendations put forward by the report and are now looking to work with the Welsh Government, CWLWM, Play Wales, local authorities and others to address them.
The research, which was commissioned by us on behalf of the Welsh Government, was carried out by the Social Care Institute for Excellence (SCIE). Its researchers spoke to more than 100 providers, care workers and umbrella organisations between February and March 2021.