Alliance actions for early years settings
Alliance writes to Morrisons CEO ensuring all early years workers can access their 10% discount
On the 12 November, the Alliance wrote to Morrissons CEO David Potts asking him to ensure that early years workers, including childminders, could access the 10% discount for teachers, school staff and nursery staff who shop at its stores.
Alliance joins groups in calling for investment in childcare to prevent closures
The Alliance joined a broad group of organisations representing businesses, parents, children, childcare providers, and workers united to renew pressure on the Treasury to take action to prevent nurseries and childminders from closing up shop due to Coronavirus.
The group put out a joint statement calling for a bailout to stem the risk of a Covid childcare crisis, and long-term investment in childcare as the UK seeks to rebuild from the virus.
This statement comes as analysis by Frontier Economics for the Fawcett Society estimates that, over the course of the lockdown period, childcare providers who have faced a hit to their finances may have lost £228m.
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 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.
The result showed one in six local authorities in England are ignoring government guidance instructing them to fund childcare providers as if coronavirus wasn’t happening until the end of the year.
- Read the full story
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”.
Over subsequent weeks the Alliance 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 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.
When the information was returned to the Alliance it showed that one in six local authorities in England are ignoring government guidance instructing them to fund childcare providers as if coronavirus wasn’t happening until the end of the year.
The government described the move as “‘block-buying’ childcare places for the rest of this year at the level we would have funded before coronavirus, regardless of how many children are attending”.
Of the 120 councils who responded, 20 (17%) stated that they were not following this guidance.
A further seven (6%) stated that they were only following the guidance in some circumstances, such as funding nurseries and pre-schools based on last year’s childcare attendance numbers, but not childminders, while three (3%) were still yet to decide.
The Alliance has provided details of its investigation findings to the Department for Education.
Commenting, Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Alliance, said:
“It is simply unacceptable that so many local authorities have disregarded the DfE guidance on early years funding during this critical time – and more importantly, that they have been allowed to do so.
“The government has said that it is ‘block-buying’ funded early years places until the end of the year but as our investigation shows, in many areas, this simply isn’t true as the money isn’t making it to the frontline.
“We have been contacted by many providers who had budgeted and planned on the basis of the government’s reassurances that their funding for the autumn term wouldn’t be affected by the pandemic, only to find out at the last minute that this isn’t the case. For many, this could be the difference between surviving the next few months, and being forced to close their doors.
“It cannot be that councils can simply choose to disregard government guidance, when that guidance has been issued to ensure the sustainability of the early years sector at such a difficult time. As such, we urge the Department to tackle this issue as a matter of urgency and make it clear that it is a requirement, and not an option, for all councils to fund all providers fully and fairly.
“The next few months are going to be difficult enough for the sector – neither central government or local authorities should be making it any harder.”
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.