The national lockdown across England is impacting communities and businesses of all sectors. The early years sector has once again been asked to be on the frontline, remaining open for children despite safety concerns and staff shortages.
While it is clear that action to supress the virus is necessary, the support to help the early years sector must be a priority as they battle through another lockdown with inadequate funding and no recognition.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak Rishi has unveiled a £4.6bn relief package for the UK retail and hospitality sectors. Firms in those sectors will receive grants of up to £9,000. Missing from any of the support packages is the early years sector. While the retail and hospitality sectors are under pressure, the early years is one of the hardest hit and has been continually calling for more support since the first lockdown in March 2020.
Commenting on the support package, Purnima Tanuku, Chief Executive of National Day Nurseries Association (NDNA), said:
‘The childcare sector is being asked to go above and beyond to support children and families in this lockdown but today’s announcement from the Chancellor has nothing in it designed to support them. In last year’s lockdown nurseries had around £4 of income for every £5 of costs they faced.
‘There are specific grants for retail and leisure businesses affected by the latest lockdown but once again there is no specific support for childcare settings. Discretionary grants will be available to local authorities but at a time where early years is the only education service open to children attending, this is not good enough.
‘The Government needs to revisit the funding support to early years this term and re-instate the block payment of childcare places to make sure that no setting loses funding at this critical time.’
Commenting after a meeting with the Childcare Minister today, she added:
‘This morning I met with the Minister Vicky Ford alongside other early years organisations to discuss last night’s announcement. I was clear with the Minister that there is a lot of anxiety and concern in the sector and the Government needs to reassure parents and providers about the scientific evidence behind last night’s decision. There will be a statement should be coming out on this shortly.
‘I also reinforced the message that unless the Government addresses the issue of funding support to nurseries through this lockdown, alongside testing and vaccination priorities for staff in the sector, nurseries will struggle to provide places and we could be looking at more settings closing their doors.’