Other safety measures
These are practical measures to minimise the risk of infection and transmission in childminding settings.
Enhanced cleaning procedures
Childminders should factor in arrangements across the day, including before and after children attend, for enhanced cleaning procedures. Surfaces, toilets, sinks and other frequently used surfaces should be cleaned regularly (at least twice daily). This should include equipment and/or areas used by the childminder and assistant. Particular attention should be paid to touchpoints such as table tops, chairs, doors, light switches, banisters, equipment, sinks, and toilets cleaned more regularly. There should be routine cleaning and disinfection of frequently touched objects and hard surfaces. Settings should ensure regular (at least twice daily) cleaning of commonly touched objects and surfaces (e.g. desks, handles, dining tables, etc.). Toys and equipment that children access should be cleaned when groups of children change – e.g. between sessions (if groups are changing) and at the end of the day or in the morning before the session begins using standard detergent and disinfectant that are active against viruses and bacteria.
Consideration should be given to this when arranging the attendance times for children. It is recommended that children only have access to toys and equipment that are easy to clean.
Resources such as water and playdough can be used as usual, with additional cleaning of equipment used. Water and playdough should be replaced on a daily/sessional basis. Childminders should limit the exchange of take home resources or items brought into the childminding setting.
If children need to bring school-bags or other personal items to the setting, arrangements should be made to manage storage of these items safely in cloakrooms or other area in order that they are not brought into and used within the childminding setting unless necessary.
Children will require comfortable areas to play, however any soft furnishings that are not required, such as throws, should be removed or washed after a single use. Where children sleep or nap in the home, children should have individual bedding, stored in individual bags and this should be laundered frequently and as a minimum weekly.
Childminders should ensure that children have identified water bottles that are not shared. All crockery and equipment used in the provision of meals and snacks for children should be cleaned with general-purpose detergent and dried thoroughly before being stored for re-use. Assistants who do not live in the home should also use their own cup or cutlery and ensure these are cleaned after use. Surfaces in dining or snack areas should be wiped down and disinfected in between use by each group of children.
All cleaning should be carried out in accordance with COVID-19 – guidance for non-healthcare settings (which includes advice on, amongst other things, detergents/ cleaning products) and Infection Prevention and Control in Childcare Settings guidance.
There is not a requirement to use fog, mist, vapour or UV (ultraviolet) treatments in ELC settings to help control the spread of coronavirus. Should a provider choose to use one of these it is important these are used appropriately. Any use of these treatments for these purposes should form part of your COVID-19 risk assessment and clear rationale would be required through risk assessment as to whether such devices would be appropriate. Users must be competent and properly trained. These treatments can be used in a larger space or room in addition to enhanced cleaning and disinfecting, but not as a substitute.
Disinfectants applied as a fog, mist or vapour may reach harmful levels during delivery and UV systems may cause eye/skin damage if people enter an area undergoing treatment. People should not enter rooms being treated by UV or disinfectants applied as fog, mist or vapour. Discuss with suppliers what safety features they can provide to prevent inadvertent access to a room during treatment, for example hazard-monitoring sensors.
Locking rooms during the treatment will help to contain the emissions but other measures such as taping of doorway gaps or plastic screening off of some areas of the room may also be required. Good ventilation will also help clear the disinfectant after the treatment if this can be controlled from outside of the room.
Up-to-date guidance on the use of fog, mist, vapour or UV (ultraviolet) treatments is available from the Health and Safety Executive.
Managing coughs and sneezes
Children will cough and sneeze and it is not always possible to catch them in time to prevent droplet spread. Encourage children to use disposable tissues to cover the nose and mouth when sneezing, coughing, wiping, and blowing the nose. Dispose of all used tissues promptly into a waste bin. If they do not have any tissues available, encourage them to cough and sneeze into the crook of their elbow. Wash or (where this is not possible, and the child is over 12 months old) use alcohol-based hand rub to clean hands at the first opportunity until you can wash your hands. Bins should be emptied frequently. Undertake cleaning of any areas where there may be droplets as soon as practical using a household cleaning product.
Singing, music and drama
Advice from the Advisory Sub-Group on Education and Children’s Issues shows that there are increased transmission risks associated with music and drama activities. The Sub-Group had specifically considered the question of singing in childcare settings and concluded that singing should not happen indoors as an organised, large group activity. However, the Sub-Group recognised that children sing naturally in the course of activities and play, and should not be discouraged from doing so, and that singing can also be used to comfort young children when necessary.
The sub-group has now reconsidered its advice in the light of the ongoing success of the vaccination programme, the continued suppression of the virus and the importance of singing for the health and wellbeing of children well as their social, physical and cognitive development.
At level 4, the sub-group’s advice is as above – that singing should not happen indoors as an organised, large group activity. Some settings have allowed this outdoors and where that is the case this should be take place with as many appropriate mitigations as possible (at low volume; for short periods of time; in small groups; and with greater physical distancing). As before, children need not be discouraged from singing naturally in the course of activities and play and singing can also be used to comfort young children when necessary.
At levels 3, 2 and 1, singing outdoors and indoors is permitted for children in childcare settings, as long as careful attention is paid to ensuring effective and adequate ventilation and subject to risk assessment and other risk mitigation measures being implemented. Other risk mitigations include singing: outdoors or indoors in large, well ventilated spaces; at low volume; for short periods of time; in small groups; and with greater physical distancing between adults.
At level 0 singing outdoors and indoors is permitted for children in ELC settings.
Tooth brushing can continue where there are adequate facilities to do so. Settings operating toothbrushing should follow the Childsmile updated guidance.
When a child or adult in the setting displays symptoms
If a child exhibits symptoms consistent with COVID-19, a ventilated space must be available for the child to wait in until they can be collected by their parent/carer. Where space allows, you should prevent contact with any other children in the setting. Care must be taken however to ensure the appropriate levels of supervision of all children. Read the advice on what to do if someone is symptomatic.
Advice on cleaning of premises after a person who potentially has COVID-19 has left the setting can be found in the Health Protection Scotland Guidance for Non-Healthcare Settings.
All parents and carers, and where relevant assistants, should be advised that children who have symptoms, or who have household members who have symptoms, should not attend the setting, and should follow advice to self-isolate and book a test.
Where a childminder is symptomatic, or a household member has symptoms, they should close their setting and should follow advice to self-isolate and book a test.
Test and Protect
Childminders and any assistants who are smartphone users should be encouraged to download The Protect Scotland contact tracing app to help suppress the spread of COVID-19.
Childminders and any assistants must be aware of Test and Protect arrangements should someone display symptoms consistent with COVID-19. If the childminder or their assistant has symptoms, they must self-isolate and not attend the setting, and should contact the NHS to arrange to be tested at 0800 028 2816 or www.nhsinform.scot. You can find more information on the COVID-19 Test and Protect webpage.
Childminder settings may be considered complex settings and so cases should be prioritised and escalated to specialist local health protection teams for further investigation.
All parents should be asked to mention childcare arrangements if contacted by or contacting the Test and Protect service.
If a parent/carer or the childminder/assistant is contacted by a contact tracer and told to self-isolate for 10 days, the person should self-isolate at home straight away – including closing the setting if necessary - and, if possible, wear a face covering on route to any other location and avoid public transport if symptomatic.
The Scottish Government has published advice for employers on how to support people who are asked to self-isolate.
Other children and adults will not be required to self-isolate unless also contacted by the contact tracing service. If a child or adult tests positive, the contact tracer will take into account the close contacts the person has had within the setting.
Settings should maintain an accurate register of absences of children and any assistants and whether these are due to suspected or confirmed COVID-19. This will enable employers to maintain records on staffing capacity in individual settings and to make judgements about whether it will be necessary to close settings temporarily.
Outbreak and case management
The management of single cases, clusters and outbreaks of COVID-19 is led by local health protection teams (HPTs) in health boards across all settings in society. For childcare and educational settings this occurs inclusively alongside local partners, such as ELCs, schools and local authorities as well as Public Health Scotland, as required.
The procedures for incident and outbreak investigation and management are well established through Managing Public Health Incidents.
Childminders and other ELC settings should ensure that they know how to contact their local HPT.
A cluster or outbreak of COVID-19 occurs when a setting has two or more confirmed cases of COVID-19 within 14 days. If a plausible transmission link between two or more cases is identified within the setting, this is indicative of an ‘outbreak’; if not, it is referred to as a ‘cluster’.
For childcare settings, Public Health Scotland advise that the local HPT is contacted when a single confirmed (test positive) case of COVID-19 occurs in a child or staff or if there is suspicion of an outbreak of cases in a specific setting, e.g. an increase in the background rate of absence due to suspected or confirmed cases of COVID-19. In this way, the HPT can provide quick advice to settings to support risk assessment of the situation and any further action required.
Early year settings will be expected to work closely with their local HPT to resolve such situations. Actions that childminders may need to be involved in when cases of COVID-19 arise in staff or children include (but are not restricted to):
- attendance at multi-agency incident management team meetings.
- communications with children, parents/carers and staff – these are vital to provide reassurance to school communities.
- providing records of seating plans / layout / attendance / groups.
- implementing enhanced infection, prevention and control measures.
- media communications.
ELC and other childcare facilities remain settings of low risk for COVID-19. The HPT will lead the incident management team (IMT) that usually co-ordinates such activities and through its members will investigate the circumstances of each incident and agree control measures. The investigation will involve reviewing risk assessments and compliance with existing guidance. Control measures may include hand hygiene reviews, enhanced cleaning regimes, adequate ventilation, reinforcement of messages on physical distancing, reminders about symptom vigilance and self-isolation and advice on face coverings and testing of children and staff, when needed. Usually childcare settings continue to operate throughout. In larger-scale clusters, it may be necessary to temporarily close a setting to facilitate cleaning or when staff capacity makes it unfeasible to remain open. Rarely do settings need to close on Public Health grounds. Any discussion of possible closures will be determined through the multi-agency IMT.
Setting should maintain appropriate records to support outbreak control measures and information flow between participating agencies must be facilitated respecting the principles of confidentiality and Data Protection legislation. In order to protect children and staff and to maintain access to childcare, confirmation of child and staff COVID-19 case and close contact numbers (including those self-isolating) are shared in confidence between the agencies.
The Scottish Government has produced an infographic that can be used to remind staff of what to do if there is a suspected outbreak.
Policy on international travel is updated regularly.
Detailed and up-to-date guidance is available at International travel and quarantine.
Providers should engage with children and their families to ensure adherence to the legal requirements. Local health protection teams are available to offer further support where providers have concerns.
Traveling to or from the childminding setting
Ensure parents or carers are aware of allocated pick-up and drop-off times to the childminding setting.
Childminders must also ensure they follow the latest travel guidance and only travel where it is permitted within the current rules on staying at home. The advice is not to use public transport in national lockdown or in a level 4 area. If the use of public transport is essential, for example to attend a planned health appointment, care must be taken to minimise risk, by travelling out with peak travel times, and ensuring hand washing immediately on arrival at the destination. Childminders must also ensure they follow the latest guidance on the use of face coverings, which is to wear them in specific circumstances, such as when on public transport.
Where childminders offer a pick-up service from a child’s home, childminders should operate physical distancing from any adults and older siblings, use alcohol hand gel, and wash their hands thoroughly when they return home.
Taxis and private hire vehicles
Some children, including those with additional support needs or placed by local authorities, may rely on taxi transfers to get to their childminder. Local authorities will give careful consideration to how these children can be provided with safe, bespoke transport to their childminder. Taxis or private hire vehicles will be required to follow any relevant guidance.