Alliance actions for early years settings
Alliance meets Chancellor Rishi Sunak
We were very pleased to have the opportunity to meet the Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak at the beginning of September as part of the APPG for Childcare and Early Education.
During the meeting, Early Years Alliance chief executive Neil Leitch, alongside Jo Verrill, managing director of Ceeda and Steve Brine, Conservative MP for Winchester and chair of the APPG, called for a meaningful review into early years funding, and a significant increase in investment into the sector.
The meeting was positive and constructive, and we were able to make a strong and evidence-based case for the sector, highlighting recent closure data, occupancy modelling and the impact of Covid-19 on providers who were already struggling as a result of underfunding.
We look forward to continuing to engage with senior figures at both the Department for Education and the Treasury, and representing our members and the wider sector, ahead of the Spending Review.
Alliance files Freedom Of Information request to local authorities over early years funding
The Early Years Alliance has filed a Freedom of Information (FOI) Act request to every local authority in England amid concerns of inconsistencies in the way early years providers are set to be funded during the upcoming autumn term.
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On 20 July 2020, the Department for Education confirmed that it would be funding councils in England based on the January 2020 census – rather than the January 2021 count as would have been normal practice – to reflect the fact that “the number of children attending childcare may not have returned to normal levels by early January”.
It also stated that “local authorities should continue to fund providers which are open at broadly the levels they would have expected to see in the 2020 autumn term had there been no coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak”, and suggested that “local authorities might, for example, use the numbers of children in places in the previous autumn to inform funding levels this autumn”.
However, over recent weeks, the Alliance has received numerous reports of local councils not adhering to the Department for Education’s recommendations, resulting in providers receiving far less funding in the autumn term than they had been led to expect.
One provider, Colette Fairfax, chair of Rixton-with-Glazebrook Pre-School, said: “We have received the funding arrangements for the 2020 autumn term from our local authority, and they have informed us that they are not funding us based on our 2019 estimates as they cannot afford to, despite this being the government guidance.
"Instead, they are offering us a 20% uplift to our 2020 estimate, which is substantially lower than the figure we had calculated based on our 2019 autumn estimates - a reduction of nearly a quarter.
"We are a small village charity pre-school and our budget was already stretched before we heard about this reduction in funding - I'm sure that there are many others in the same situation."
In response to these concerns, the Alliance has filed an FOI Act request to every single local authority in England asking if they will be funding early years providers during the autumn term 2020 using ‘the numbers of children in places in the previous autumn to inform funding levels’, as suggested in the DfE guidance; and if not, what alternative approach they will be using, and if it will mean that local providers are still being funded ‘as if autumn term 2020 were happening normally’, as per the same guidance.
Commenting, Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Early Years Alliance, said:
“The Department for Education’s decision to continue funding the sector based on 2019 levels in the autumn term was a welcome step – but it’s clear that much more must be done to ensure that this support reaches the frontline.
“The government has described the move as ‘”block-buying” childcare places for the rest of the year’ – but if councils are allowed to just disregard DfE guidance and refuse to fund providers at autumn 2019 levels, then this simply isn’t the case.
“We have received numerous reports of councils who are choosing not to follow the DfE’s recommendations, which is putting even more financial pressure on local providers at an already incredibly difficult time.
“It is vital that the government places tighter requirements on local authorities on this issue, and we hope that the information that we are gaining through our FoI investigation will provide the evidence needed to ensure that this happens.”
Covid-19 Recovery Fund launched
In July we made a pot of funding available so we could award grants of up to £750 to members to help with the challenge of reopening provision during the Covid-19 crisis. Due to overwhelming demand we had to close the Fund once the money had run out. The Recovery Fund will be re-opened in the future when further funding is available.
If anyone would like to help to replenish the Recovery Fund they can donate to it here. Thank you.
Campaign asking providers and parents to email their MP for financial support package for childcare sector
The early years sector is facing significant financial pressures during the coronavirus pandemic. With an emergency Budget reported to being taking place shortly, we want providers and parents to write to their MPs to urge the government to commit to an urgent dedicated financial support package for the childcare sector.
Alliance launches The Forgotten Sector report
On 25 June 2020, we published a new report, The Forgotten Sector, which details the financial impact of the coronavirus outbreak - and a subsequent lack of adequate government support - on the early years sector in England.
Letter to Gavin Williamson and Vicky Ford calling for financial support for early years providers for additional costs incurred during Covid-19 pandemic
On 18 May, the Alliance wrote to the Education Secretary Gavin Williamson and the Children and Families Minister Vicky Ford calling for an end to the unfair treatment of early years settings.
In guidance published on 7 April, the DfE confirmed schools could apply for extra financial support to help with the ‘exceptional costs associated with Coronavirus for the period of March to July’, including increased premises related costs and additional cleaning costs.
However the Government has not announced any plans for any equivalent support schemes for early years providers, despite the fact that, like schools, they have been encouraged to stay open to key worker and vulnerable children since the end of March, and are now being asked to open more widely from 1 June.
Gave evidence at inquiry into impact of cover-19 on maternity, adoption and shared parental leave
Alliance Chief Exective Neil Leitch gave evidence to the Petitions Committee's inquiry into the impact of cover-19 on maternity, adoption and shared parental leave on Thursday 21 May.
You can watch it here.
Our written evidence is here.
A lot of parents currently on maternity/ adoption leave have said they’ve been unable to find suitable childcare during the lockdown, many plans for grandparents to do some childcare have also been disrupted due to social distancing and shielding. The Committee has also received some petitions about financial support for childcare establishments in light of Covid-19. The last petition debate the Committee had on childcare was on 9 March. In the public engagement we did for this debate, many parents told us that they often struggled to find childcare places and struggled to afford them.
As part of its inquiry into the impact on maternity and adoption leave, the Committee would therefore like to find out more about the impact of coronavirus on the childcare sector.
If you are a childcare provider, or work for a nursery, please share your views and experiences via this short survey.
Email campaigns for providers and parents to ask their MPs to challenge the government's Job Retention Scheme early years U-turn
The Department for Education published new guidance which revealed there are limitations on how early years providers in receipt of 'free entitlement' funding can access the Job Retention Scheme, despite previous guidance stating that providers could access both schemes.
Email campaign asking MP to ask for childminders to be included in the government's 'Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme'
The government announced a 'Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme' for employees across all industries, including the early years sector - but self-employed childminders will not benefit from this new measure.
We asked providers to email their MP on the issue.
Email campaign asking MPs to ensure the 'coronavirus job retention scheme' was flexible enough for nurseries and pre-schools
Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced all businesses will be able to apply for grants to cover up to 80% of salaries of staff who are 'furloughed' - i.e. not working but kept on payroll - for three months during the coronavirus outbreak. However, for many childcare providers who are endeavouring to provide care for key worker families and vulnerable children during this period, the scheme is not flexible enough to enable them to stay open - for example, as it stands, staff aren't able to be 'unfurloughed' and 'refurloughed' to cover staff sickness and self-isolation as needed.
In response to this, we launched an email your MP campaign for nurseries and pre-schools calling for this scheme to be applied flexibly for the childcare sector.
Letter to the Chancellor Rishi Sunak over lack of support for childcare sector
The Alliance wrote to the Chancellor about the Treasury's lack of support for the childcare sector in his announcements on Tuesday 17 March.
Mr Sunak unveiled a raft of financial measures designed to support the leisure, retail and hospitality sectors during the coronavirus outbreak, without offering any new support for businesses in the childcare sector.
We've worked with the DfE on funded entitlement from local authorities
We worked with the DfE to ensure funding for the government's funded childcare offers will continue to be paid to local authorities during any closures related to the current coronavirus outbreak and that it expects local authorities to pass on the funding to providers.
The chancellor has since confirmed this.
Vicky Ford, children and families minister, added: "I want to thank all the early years practitioners who day-in and day-out do such an excellent job. I know these must be difficult times and I hope these announcements show that we are listening to their concerns and taking urgent action. I particularly want to thank the Early Years Alliance, the National Day Nurseries Association, and the Professional Association for Childcare and Early Years for their engagement at this critical time."
Asked for Ofsted inspections to be paused
Ofsted has suspended routine inspections. The secretary of state has given permission for all routine inspections to be temporarily paused. The move comes shortly after the Alliance contacted chief inspector Amanda Spielman to ask for a temporary halt on inspections while early years settings deal with the coronavirus outbreak.
Wrote to heads of UK supermarkets about supplies for settings
The Alliance wrote to the heads of the UK's major supermarket chains, asking them to support childcare providers during the coronavirus outbreak.
Supermarkets have been asked to ensure that providers have access to food and vital resources during widespread panic-buying in many stores.