Ar 26 Mai 2020, ysgrifennodd David Goodger, Prif Swyddog Gweithredol Blynyddoedd Cynnar Cymru y blog a ganlyn – ple i’r Gweinidog Addysg am gefnogaeth barhaus i’r sector a mwy o gydweithredu wrth feddwl rhwng Adrannau Gweinidogol yn Llywodraeth Cymru.

Mae Blynyddoedd Cynnar Cymru a’n partneriaid yn Sefydliadau Ymbarél Cwlwm wedi bod yn gweithio i gynnal ein haelodau yn y sector blynyddoedd cynnar, gofal plant a chwarae yn ystod y pandemig.  Ni fu cyfnod fel hwn o’r blaen ac mae yna broblemau newydd yn codi i bawb.  Rydyn ni’n cydnabod bod Llywodraeth Cymru wedi ymdrechu i gefnogi a diogleu pobl Cymru trwy’r argyfwng hwn.  Rwy’n ysgrifennu’r blog hwn cyn ail ran a chamau nesaf y bwriad i ‘lacio’r cyfyngiadau ar ein cymdeithas a’n heconomi’ yng Nghymru.

Yn gyntaf, mae’n bwysig cydnabod gwendidau’r sector gofal plant.  Mae yna’n dal broblemau ariannu sydd heb eu datrys, mae hynny’n achosi tensiynau yn y sector ac rwy’n gwybod y bydd partneriaid yn trafod y problemau hyn yn eu blogiau.  Mae yna rai pwyntiau ychwanegol yr hoffwn i eu cyflwyno i’w hystyried ac rwy’n teimlo y dylai’r rhai sy’n cymryd penderfyniadau eu cydnabod yn y dyddiau i ddod.

Wrth i Gymru symud tuag at ‘lacio’r cyfyngiadau’, mae’n amserol atgoffa pawb fod y sector gofal plant wedi gwneud gwaith amhrisiadwy yn y cyfnod anodd hwn.  Mae llawer o leoliadau wedi aros ar agor i ddarparu gofal i blant gweithwyr hanfodol.  O dan rai amgylchiadau, mae hynny wedi golygu croesawu plant o leoliadau anghyfarwydd, sicrhau dilyniant i’r plant hynny a hyrwyddo’r ymateb cenedlaethol i alluogi rhieni i ddal ati gyda’u gwaith hanfodol.  Ym mhob achos, mae hyn wedi golygu cefnogi plant ifanc a chefnogi eu rheini’n emosiynol er mwyn i’r plant allu bod yn hapus ac i roi sicrwydd i rieni fod eu plant yn ddiogel.  Mae’r staff sy’n gweithio yn y lleoliadau hyn yn haeddu ein cydnabyddiaeth ni oll a hefyd ein hymrwymiad i ddal i’w cefnogi yn y cyfnod llacio a thu hwnt.

O gofio am yr effeithiau ariannol ac am bryder rhieni wrth lacio fesul cam, rwy’n teimlo ei bod yn bwysig nodi y bydd lleoliadau sydd wedi cau oherwydd y pandemig yn agor o dan amgylchiadau gwahanol iawn.  O ganlyniad, ni fydd y modelau ariannol oedd yn cael eu defnyddio fis Chwefror yn agos at fod yn hyfyw.  Er fod yna rai newidiadau yn y Safonau Cenedlaethol Gofynnol, ychydig iawn sydd yna o newidiadau yn y cymarebau staff–plant, sy’n deg, ond nid yw hynny’n galluogi lleolidau i newid eu patrwm staffio’n sylweddol i leihau costau.  Felly hefyd, er diogelwch pawb, bydd yna fwy o gostau glanhau, diheintio a hylendid pan fydd lleoliadau’n ail agor.   Rwy’n credu y bydd yn rhaid cydnabod rhywfaint ar effeithiau hyn ac y bydd yn anorfod y bydd yn rhaid cael arian i gadw lleoliadau rhag cau am byth; ni all y gwasanaethau hyn ddal ar agor ac ysgwyddo colledion wrth redeg eu busnesau.  Does dim digon o arian wrth gefn i wneud hynny,

Rwy’n cael fy nghalonogi wrth weld fod mwy o ystyriaeth wedi’i roi wrth drafod llacio’r cyfyngiadau nag a gafwyd wrth orfodi’r cyfnod clo ar ein dibyniaeth ar ei gilydd y sector blynyddoedd cynnar a gofal plant, a’r sector addysg sy’n cael ei gynnal.   Heb y sector gofal plant a chwarae yn y blynyddoedd cynnar, byddai’r sector addysg sy’n cael ei gynnal yn cael trafferth i ddal ati; ni fyddai cymaint o athrawon ar gael i addysgu na chymaint o staff atodol mewn ysgolion i wneud y gwaith gweinyddu pwysig ar gyfer myfyrwyr.  Ymhellach, mae llawer o leoliadau blynyddoedd cynnar, gofal plant a gwaith chwarae yn rhannu campws gydag ysgolion, felly mae penderfyniadau ynghylch un yn effeithio ar y lleill.  Er bod eu portffolios yn perthyn i Weinidogion gwahanol, mae’n rhaid ystyried pob sector wrth gymryd pob penderfyniad.

Bydd y misoedd i ddod yn rhai anodd i bob sector, ond mae’r rhai sy’n gweithio gyda phlant a’u teuluoedd ar flaen y gad wrth wynebu’r problemau.  Rwy’n gwybod y bydd y sector gofal plant yn codi i’r her, yn gweithio’n dda ac yn ddiflino i ddarparu’r gofal, addysg a’r profiad gorau i bob plentyn ac i’r teuluoedd y maen nhw’n eu gwasanaethu.  Yr hyn rwy’n ei ofyn yw bod y rhai sy’n cymryd penderfyniadau a’r rhai sy’n rhoi cefnogaeth ariannol yn cydnabod ac gwerthfawrogi’r sector drwy roi iddi y polisiau, y gefnogaeth ymarferol, y gefnogaeth ariannol a’r gydnabyddiaeth y mae’n ei haeddu.

On the 26 May 2020, David Goodger, CEO of Early Years Wales wrote the following blog – a plea to the Minister of Education for continued support for the sector and more collaboration in thinking between Ministerial Departments in Welsh Government.

Early Years Wales, and our partner Umbrella Organisations in Cwlwm have been working with our memberships in the early years, childcare and playwork sector to provide support during the current pandemic. This has been unprecedented times and, as such, has presented numerous challenges for everyone. We recognise that Welsh Government has endeavoured to provide support and to maintain the safety of the population in Wales throughout the crisis. I write this blog, ahead of the second phase of the planned ‘Unlocking our Society and Economy’ next steps in Wales.

Firstly, it is important to recognise the vulnerabilities of the childcare sector. There are unresolved funding issues that are causing tensions for the sector and I know partners will articulate these issues in related blogs. There are a few additional points I wanted to articulate for consideration which I feel should be recognised by decision makers in the coming days.

While the moves towards ‘unlocking’ Wales are commencing, it is timely to remind everyone that the childcare sector has undertaken invaluable work in these challenging times. Numerous settings have remained open providing childcare to critical worker families. In some circumstances, this has included welcoming children to unfamiliar settings, providing continuity to these children and facilitating the National response by allowing the parents to undertake their vital roles. In all cases, this has included supporting young children and providing their parents with the emotional support to allow the children to be happy and the parents, reassured that their children are safe. The staff working in these settings deserve the recognition of us all and a commitment to continue supporting them into the phased unlocking and beyond.

In light of the financial impacts, and the sense of parental anxiety in the phased unlocking, I feel it is important to note that when settings that have closed due to the pandemic reopen they do so in very different circumstances. As a result, financial models that were in place in February are simply not viable. Although there is some adjustment to the National Minimum Standards (NMS), in early years there has been minimal changes to the staff-child ratios, rightly so, but this does not enable settings to alter their staffing substantially to reduce costs. Likewise, for the safety of all, some cleaning, sanitation, and hygiene costs will be elevated when settings reopen. I feel some acknowledgment of this impact and sustainability funding will inevitably be required to prevent settings from having to permanently close their service; these services simply cannot operate whilst absorbing running cost losses as their reserves are not robust enough to do this.

I am encouraged that the ‘unlocking’ phase already appears to have more thought to the interconnectedness of the early years, childcare and playwork sector and the maintained education sector than the closure did. Without the early years childcare and playwork sector, the maintained education sector would struggle to operate; many teachers would be unavailable to teach and many school ancillary staff unavailable for their important student and administrative work. Furthermore, a significant number of early years, childcare and playwork settings share campus space with schools, therefore decisions affecting one influence the other. Despite ‘belonging’ to different Ministerial portfolios, it is vital that cross sector consideration is given to every decision.

The coming months will be challenging to all sectors, but those working with children and their families are at the forefront of this challenge. I know our childcare sector will rise to this challenge, work admirably and tirelessly to provide the best of care, education, and experience for all the children, and families they serve. My request is, that decision makers and financial supporters recognise and value this sector, giving them the policies, practical support, fiscal support, and recognition that they deserve.