A plea from the early years sector for more financial support and guidance

Open letter to Boris Johnson (Prime Minister), Rishi Sunak (Chancellor), Gavin Williamson (Education Secretary), Vicky Ford (Children and Families Minister), Matt Hancock (Secretary of State for Health)

As the early years sector prepares to reopen to more children from 1st June, early years providers including our childminder, nursery and pre-school members are contacting us to share their concerns about a number of issues including, as a priority:

• Lack of clear, consistent guidance on what early years providers can and cannot do with the children in their care

• Lack of PPE to allow early years providers to follow government guidelines

• Lack of clarity from the Health and Safety Executive about additional extensions for first aid certificates

• Lack of clear written guidance on transporting children in cars

• Lack of clear written guidance on taking children on outings

• Lack of clarity in schools guidance leading to childminders being banned from school playgrounds

However, the main message from our members is about the lack of additional financial support for the self-employed and the financial strain the current crisis is placing on their businesses.

It is widely accepted that the early years sector has been underfunded for many years. In addition, many childminders, for example, were not eligible to claim the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme and many others received very little from the scheme due to high expenses which lead to a low annual net profit.

Similarly, many providers in group settings tell us they have found the Furlough Scheme hard to navigate and have been financially disadvantaged by the Government’s decision to offset 2, 3 and 4 year funding against the scheme.

Additional costs for, for example, cleaning products, purchasing PPE to allow practitioners to follow latest Government guidelines etc. must be found from dwindling financial resources while rents, insurances and other ongoing bills must still be paid.

There is also a lot of concern in the early years sector about continued sustainability if settings are temporarily closed due to following the Government’s self-isolation and new track and trace advice if a child or staff member is tested positive for the virus.

As one childminder put it to us: ‘we will be opening and closing like a revolving door and we cannot charge parents if we are closed – what are we going to do for money?’

Consideration must be given to the financial needs of the entire early years sector if they are to remain open to care for early years children, thereby allowing parents to get back to work and the country to recover from the current crisis.

Thank you on behalf of our 2.2 million members including around 40,000 registered childminders and 23,000 nurseries.

Richard Conway, CEO & Founder of Childcare.co.uk said:

"Childminders are valuable, self-employed, key workers, many of whom have been risking their lives, working throughout the Coronavirus pandemic to provide care to the children of NHS staff and other key workers. As childminders start to reopen for more children, there are still a number of important, unanswered questions that they urgently need answers to.

"Further, the vast majority of childminders are suffering financial hardship as a result of their forced closure to most children. Government initiatives such as the Self-employment Income Support Scheme have provided some help but most childminders don't make huge profits as they plough most of their revenue back into their businesses. Childminders face increasing costs and significantly reduced revenue and the government should urgently step-in and provide further financial support as soon as possible.

"We are witnessing many childminders closing their doors forever and they are not being replaced by new childminders joining the sector. The net result is a reduction in the overall number of childminders which will impact upon families and the overall economy of the nation."

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