Staff shortages and a lack of auto-injector training are just some of the reasons at least 10 nurseries in Oldham have refused to admit a two-year-old boy, according to his parents.

Lucy Ellis, a primary school teacher from Royton, and her ex-husband James Ellis said they have faced enormous difficulty in trying to get their son in a nursery for the past 18 months.

Lucy said she has contacted “a good 25” nurseries across the borough but has not had any success with nurseries either failing to get back to her or outright withdrawing their offer due to her son’s complex needs.

Jacob Ellis is like any other toddler: he likes trucks, dancing, anything to do with water and giving hugs.

The Oldham Times: The little boy is non-verbal and requires an EpiPen due to his allergies.The little boy is non-verbal and requires an EpiPen due to his allergies.

He is also allergic to egg, soya and grass, which means he has an EpiPen, and is on a 42-week-long waiting list for a speech and language specialist.

However, his parents claim nurseries in Oldham are refusing to accept him based on a myriad of “excuses” stemming from staff shortages to a lack of basic auto-injector training.

Meanwhile, specialist schools that could cater to Jacob’s needs are unable to take him in as Lucy said she was told he was “not severe enough”.

The uphill battle for a space has been going on since Jacob was just six months old.

Lucy has contacted nurseries in Royton, Shaw, Chadderton and Middleton to no avail.

The Oldham Times: Lucy said Jacob means "everything" to her and that "it hurts" to see so many nurseries refuse him a place.Lucy said Jacob means "everything" to her and that "it hurts" to see so many nurseries refuse him a place.

The 26-year-old said: "I got the same consensus back - that they felt he needed a bit of extra support but that they didn’t have the staff for it.

“Other reasons were that they didn’t have EpiPen training which I think is absolutely ridiculous.”

Lucy has almost lost count of the number of nurseries she has contacted but said the result is always the same.

Jacob had even visited four premises in person while another six refused him a space over the phone after learning about his needs.

And when one nursery said it couldn’t afford to enrol staff on the 30-minute auto-injector training course, Lucy and James even offered to pay for it out of their own pocket.

James, who is a driving instructor, said he even found community nurses who would teach the staff for free, so they would only need to pay the staff's wages for the course.

However, their offer was refused.

Lucy said: “For me, coming from a primary school background, there is just no way that as a school we would say to a child, ‘no you can’t come here.'

“If a child has an inhaler, they wouldn’t say they couldn’t take the child because they’ve not had inhaler training.

“I just think it’s absolutely ludicrous."

The Oldham Times: Jacob likes trucks, cars and dancing.Jacob likes trucks, cars and dancing.

The financial and emotional strain this is having on Jacob's parents is huge with both of them being forced to drastically cut their hours.

The arrangement has long been unsustainable for them both, but Lucy fears they will be “stuck” in limbo until Jacob is old enough to go to school.

The family are also entitled to 15 hours of free nursery care which they currently cannot claim.

“I know I’d have to pay for some form of nursery but at least I’d be able to go to work to earn that money”, Lucy added.

But both parents are most concerned about their son's well-being.

James said it feels as though the family have not "had a break" since the pandemic and worries about how Jacob's development has been impacted by lockdown and the lack of socialisation. 

The dad said: "He’s definitely missing some social skills.

"And I don't want him to think of his early life as being cooped up at home, but there's only so many free parks you can go to.

"I absolutely love my time with him, I love seeing his little face so I’m blessed for the extra time but I do worry - I see the difference between him and my twin nieces".

Lucy added: “I feel sorry for Jacob because he isn’t getting that kind of environment where he’s around other children.

"He’s just with adults all the time.

“It just makes me sad for him.

"I take him to playgroups but it’s not the same as having a little group of nursery friends.”

The primary school teacher said it’s “heart-breaking” that so many places have refused Jacob but said “it hurts more” when he’s been invited for a taster day first.

Lucy said: “Then it’s more personal – you’ve met my little boy and have said no.

“Because he can’t tell me how he’s feeling, sometimes I’m wondering 'what is he thinking?'

“He’s going to all these places and then after an hour he’s taken away and then he never goes back there again.

“I don’t want to be upset in from of him but when I’m doing phone calls when he’s about, it’s just really hard.

“He’s everything to me and for somebody to turn around and say they don’t want him, it just hurts”.

James said the experience has been "really disheartening" and "upsetting".

"It's almost like being told your son isn't good enough", he added.

The ordeal has left Lucy wondering about other parents in Oldham who have likely faced similar barriers since she said she can't be the only parent with a child with additional needs in the area.

She said: “How many other parents are in this situation?

“If they’re saying no to Jacob, they must be saying no to however many other children”.

Lucy is advocating for a change in Ofsted guidance and wants to see something put in place where nurseries cannot refuse a child in a similar way to primary and secondary schools.

She said: “I’m not saying that I want a new law, but just some guidance from Ofsted that says ‘you cannot discriminate.'

"It's just getting beyond a joke.

“I don’t know whether it’s an Oldham thing or a nationwide thing, I don’t know what’s going on”.

The Oldham Times: James loves the extra time with Jacob but is concerned about how the lack of socialisation with other children is affecting him.James loves the extra time with Jacob but is concerned about how the lack of socialisation with other children is affecting him.

Councillor Eddie Moores, Cabinet member for children and young people, 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.”

Cllr Moores said that the council offers Ofsted-approved Paediatric First Aid training courses which are available to all Early Years settings which includes anaphylaxis and auto-injector training.

He added: “We would encourage providers, if they haven’t already, to access this training by contacting us at

“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.”

Meanwhile, an Ofsted spokesperson said: “Unfortunately, we are unable to comment on individual cases or providers.

“When we inspect and regulate a provider, we consider how well they meet all of the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) requirements, including requirements regarding inclusion, equality and staff training.

“We consider all information we receive, including anything that suggests a provider may not be meeting these requirements, and will take action if necessary".