The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) has called on the Government to do more to protect the childcare sector.
New research from the FSB reveals that close to a quarter (23%) of small firms believe that the reopening of schools and nurseries, as well as the availability of childminders and nannies, will have an impact on their ability to reopen safely.
The childcare sector is an important part of our society’s infrastructure. Without it, more aspects of our economy will struggle and our workforce will suffer. Other than a few words of praise at the beginning of lockdown, the sector has been overlooked throughout the pandemic. While schools are reopening, the Government seems to have forgotten that many nurseries remained open from the beginning without any additional significant support.
Now the sector is at risk of major closures across the country and there are no signs of that much needed funding.
Commenting on the finding, FSB National Chairman Mike Cherry said:
‘There are millions within the small business community with children who are not yet of school age.
‘Small firms within our childcare sector were already up against a plethora of challenges before coronavirus hit. The pandemic has made a bad situation worse, with cashflow all but evaporating for months at many pre-school providers.
‘To add insult to injury, there was a huge amount of confusion regarding eligibility for furlough and 30-hour free funding around the time of the initial national lockdown, meaning extra uncertainty for nurseries.
‘The Government must do more to protect the futures of our vital childcare providers. Ensuring that funding for the 30-hour free pledge is genuinely adequate and making permanent the current business rates exemption for nurseries – a step already taken in Scotland – would be good places to start.’
Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Early Years Alliance, said:
‘The Federation of Small Businesses is absolutely right to highlight the vital role that nurseries, pre-schools and childminders play in supporting parents to return to work, and to warn that much more needs to be done to safeguard small businesses within the childcare sector itself.
‘While much attention has now turned to the reopening of schools, early years providers – which deliver care and education to over a million children in England – are continuing to struggle. With the increased costs of operating during a pandemic alongside a continued reduced demand for places, our chronically-underfunded sector will not be able to cope for much longer without urgent support.
‘With the Spending Review taking place shortly, we urge the government to ensure that the early years sector gets the investment it needs to remain viable, both now and in the long term.’