Plan to re-open: what about the early years?

On Sunday evening, Prime Minister Boris Johnson laid out plans to get society back to work. However, he gave absolutely no mention of the early years sector in this big announcement leaving further gaps of uncertainty for the sector.

The Prime Minister stated that people who can’t work from home should try to go back if safe to do so. That being said, many of those people will need childcare to support them to do so. The two are both linked to each other’s smooth re-opening.

The early years sector cannot be treated like any other business, nor can it be pushed in and behind schools. To get our society back up and running the Government must commit more support and transparency for early years providers.

Commenting, Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Early Years Alliance, said:

‘We are incredibly disappointed and frustrated that, while today’s announcement offered some clarity on plans to reopen schools, there was no mention of the early years sector.

‘Nurseries, childminders and pre-schools need a clear plan of action on how they are going to be supported, both practically and financially, to re-open as lockdown eases, but as it stands, it is unclear how – or even if – they are included in the government’s proposals.

‘It is vital that the early years isn’t simply tacked onto the end of whatever plans government is making for schools. The early years is a unique sector with unique needs, and providers are going to face significant changes to the way they operate on a day-to-day basis, especially given the age of the children they care for.

‘As such, government needs to be clear how it expects childcare providers to operate during this transition period, and crucially, what financial support it plans to provide.

‘Given the Alliance’s recent survey found that one in four childcare providers felt they wouldn’t survive the year, the government simply cannot afford to drag its feet on this. The Prime Minister has said that the UK ‘can be stronger and better than ever before’ – but without a functioning, sustainable childcare sector, this simply won’t be possible.’

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