The Early Years Alliance has released new research that found only around four in 10 parents of under-fives are planning to take up their childcare places today as England begins to re-open settings.
The early years organisation warns that the childcare sector is still at significant risk and more must be done to support it for it to survive.
Key findings include:
The parent survey, which had around 4,500 responses, found that:
- Just 45% of parents whose childcare providers are planning on opening 1 June are planning to take up their place – 42% are not, while 13% still undecided
- 21% of those who are planning to take up their childcare place on 1 June expect to take up less hours than they did previously
- 28% of parents rated the clarity of the government’s rationale for reopening childcare settings as ‘1’ on a rating scale of 1 out of 10.
The provider survey, which had 6,300 responses, found that:
- 65% of childcare providers are planning to reopen more widely on 1 June
- 50% of providers expect the demand for places to be less than the number of children they can care for safely when they do reopen
- 69% expect to operate at a loss over the next six months.
Of those childcare providers not planning to reopen on 1 June:
The most commonly-cited reasons for not opening were: ‘Don’t feel it’s safe for staff families/own family’ (64%); ‘Don’t feel it’s safe for children’ (62%) and ‘Don’t feel it’s safe for staff/myself’ (56%).
When asked when they are planning to reopen, the most common responses were:
- September (42%)
- July (20%)
- I / we have no idea yet (18%).
Commenting on the results, Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Early Years Alliance, said:
‘Our survey findings show just how split parents are over whether or not to send their children back to childcare. While this isn’t in any way unexpected, it does highlight the huge pressure that the early years sector in England is facing over the coming months.
‘With most childcare providers limited as to how many children they can care for safely, and many predicting that parental demand for places will be lower still, many nurseries, pre-schools and childminders are going to face a real struggle for survival during this incredibly difficult period. It is no exaggeration to say that the very future of the childcare sector is at risk if the government doesn’t get its act together and provide the support that providers need.
‘While early years settings have worked incredibly hard over recent weeks either to prepare to reopen, or to continue supporting their families remotely, the government’s attitude towards them has been frankly appalling: it has refused to reverse its last-minute decision to restrict providers’ ability to access furlough funding; it has refused to offer any financial support to help early years providers meet the additional costs of operating safely during this outbreak, while providing thousands of pounds to schools for the very same purpose; and it has refused to commit to any kind of transitional funding to help the sector get through this period of significantly reduced demand.
‘Although much focus to date has been on the reopening of primary schools, with more than a million children normally accessing early years care and education, there is no doubt that early years providers will play a pivotal role in the overall recovery of the economy, and the ability of society to return to some kind of normality.
‘It is vital, therefore, that the government takes the steps needed to safeguard the future of the early years sector. That means not only providing the clear, unambiguous reassurance that parents – and providers – need to feel confident that it is safe for children to return to childcare, but crucially, committing to a significant financial support package to help ensure that childcare providers are able to stay afloat throughout this challenging period and beyond.’