Some home-based educators are going underground and plan to care for children off the books following the Government's vaccine mandate for education settings, the sector says.
Home-based carers have written an open letter to the Government calling for a rethink of the rule that everyone in their houses must be vaccinated, even if they are not in contact with children - calling it "blatant segregation".
The letter was signed by the leaders of more than 20 licensed home-based care companies including Porse, the biggest provider of home-based care in New Zealand.
They stressed the letter was not about being pro- or anti-vaccination, but was a warning of the burden the policy would put on the sector by worsening staff shortages.
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The teacher vaccine mandate requires anyone who is in contact with children in an educational setting to be fully vaccinated by January 1. They must have had their first dose by November 15.
Education minister Chris Hipkins said last week that vaccination was the strongest and most effective tool we had to protect against infection and disease.
Most in the sector were already vaccinated but it couldn't be left to chance. Those who worked with vulnerable people needed to take that extra step, he said.
The mandate for education settings includes anyone over 12 who lives in the same house where home-based education is provided.
Secretary for Education Iona Holsted last week confirmed the rule applied "whether or not individuals are ordinarily present while the service is being delivered".
Today's open letter said that meant the mandate would take in "children, husbands, wives, partners, boarders, flatmates, parents or grandparents" many of whom who may not be home at the same time as the children in care.
By contrast, people who work at schools and ECEs but are not in contact with children - such as cleaners - do not need to be vaccinated under the mandate.
And it warned the move was likely to drive people underground - this was already being discussed on Facebook noticeboards and other community forums.
The group instead suggested strict health and safety protocols in home-based care, including social distancing, handwashing and mask wearing and restricting non-vaccinated people during childcare hours.. They also suggested using rapid antigen testing for household members.
Nannies and au pairs have also been captured by the mandate - with Holsted saying if they were providing licensed home-based education in a household, everyone over 12 in that house must be vaccinated. Private arrangements would not be included, she said.
Tanya Burrage, general manager of Dream Childcare, wrote to Holsted this afternoon voicing her "strong opposition" to mandating vaccinations for residents in a home where childcare takes place.
"While we want to support public health guidance, expectations must be reasonable and fair," she said.
She was concerned that making all family members in a home get vaccinated would push people into private childcare arrangements.
"This in turn will undermine the high quality provision and participation rates for all pre-school children that government have been working towards.
"We have already had families indicate that they will go private or forgo their nanny arrangement because they are not prepared to be vaccinated for a range of reasons."
Vaccine mandate protest postponed over case numbers
While most educators appear to be on board with the mandate, a few have said they will quit their jobs rather than get the jab.
One group that had planned to protest against the teachers' vaccine mandate outside Auckland Ministry of Education offices today has called off its protest due to rising case numbers in the city.
Organiser Nicolle Porterfield said it would be irresponsible to hold a protest while Covid-19 case numbers were rising in the city, with half of them unlinked.
"Going ahead will be detrimental to our purpose and attract more backlash at this time. As a responsible and moral citizen (though many don't think so), I'm obligated to assess the level of risk and what is in our best interest with good conscience.
"At this stage, the unlinked cases and unknown transmission has too much potential to cause a wider spread."
She said they would not give up but would wait for the right time and place to protest.