The despairing parents of a non-verbal toddler have spoken of their frustration over their struggle to get him into a nursery after multiple centres rejected their applications.
Lucy and James Ellis approached 25 nurseries for a place for little Jacob but have so far been rejected outright by ten.
The toddler, who has allergies to soya, egg and grass and needs an EpiPen, is currently on a nine-month waiting list for speech and language therapy.
He experienced the difficulties when he was just six months old and now his parents claim the challenges, coupled with “a lack of EpiPen training”, have hindered their battle to find Jacob a nursery.
Speaking to Manchester Evening News, James, 34, said: “We’re frustrated and angry. We’re being told essentially that our little boy is an issue – that he’s a burden these places aren’t willing to help with.
“I get upset that he’s missing out on this time where he could be interacting with children his age and learning vital social skills as simple as sharing, personal space and boundaries. I play with him like I’m his little friend; I let him lead the fun and experiment with him with different tasks and play areas.
“It’s absolutely rewarding and so special but it breaks my heart he’s got no kids his age to play with and learn from or have that safe environment to get used to being away from myself and his mum and have that little bit of independent time.”
The family, of Oldham, Greater Manchester, say they have either had their nursery applications ignored or they have been refused after visiting the premises to look around.
James, who is a driving instructor, continued: “Even when I offered to get the EpiPen training organised for free from community nurses in Oldham, I had a nursery say they didn’t have the funding to pay staff to do overtime to do the course. Even when I offered to pay the overtime costs, I was just dismissed.
“We’ve also been told a few times because he’s non-verbal they couldn’t help, even though he hasn’t been diagnosed with any learning difficulties yet and could very well just be a late bloomer, they aren’t willing to help.
“A few places have offered us unrealistic hours like two hours a day on two days a week which isn’t sufficient.”
Lucy, a primary school teacher, and James take their son to a community centre several times a week to engage with other children but now feel he’ll benefit hugely from regular time at a nursery.
The council said it always urges all of its private settings to “seek EpiPen training via an independent training provider” and stresses “every child is included and supported” at early education settings.
Councillor Eddie Moores, Cabinet Member for Children and Young People at Oldham Council, said: “We are sorry to hear Lucy has been frustrated in her experience of trying to find a nursery place for her son. While we do not control the admissions process for privately owned early years settings, we would strongly encourage Lucy to contact our Family Information Service (FIS) so we can support her in finding a suitable childcare place.
“All early years settings that are registered with Ofsted and receive local authority funds, are required to have regard to the 0-25 SEND Code of Practice. Therefore we would expect all early years providers to take reasonable steps to ensure that children with medical conditions get the support required to meet those needs, so that every child is included and supported.
“The council offers an Ofsted approved Paediatric First Aid training course as part of its training programme and this is available to all Early Years settings, including local childminders, nursery staff, play workers and teachers. This training covers Anaphylaxis alongside the theory and practical use of an Auto-Injector (Epi Pen). We would encourage providers, if they haven’t already, to access this training by contacting us at [email protected]
“Alternatively, we would strongly encourage all private settings to seek EpiPen training via an independent training provider if they don’t already have this, to ensure staff are equipped to take on similar admissions in the future and we can avoid these events moving forward.
“The council also provides a range of support to Early Years settings to help them deliver high quality inclusive practice and meet the needs of all individual children through the Right Start and School Nursing Service. This includes access to a comprehensive professional development training programme.”