Early Years Alliance raises concerns about gaps in latest Covid-19 support schemes

The Early Years Alliance has commented on today's Treasury announcement of a limited support package for businesses which have been most impacted by the rise of the Omicron variant, raising concerns about the level of support available to the early years sector. The measures announced include a further £102 million for the Additional Restrictions Grants, allocated on a discretionary basis by local authorities, and the reintroduction of the Statutory Sick Pay Rebate scheme.

Further details on the support schemes are available here:

https://www.gov.uk/government/news/1-billion-in-support-for-businesses-most-impacted-by-omicron-across-the-uk

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-economic-support-package

Commenting, Neil Leitch, CEO of the Early Years Alliance, said:

“It will be welcome news for early years providers, who have been hard hit by Covid-19 related staff absences and falling attendance during each wave of infections to date, that small businesses will once more be able to claim back Covid-related Statutory Sick Pay costs. However, we are concerned to see that yet again, early years providers are falling through large holes in government support schemes on offer to both the education sector, and to businesses. 

“For example, not only are these latest grants focussed on leisure, retail, hospitality and culture, the government has declined to include pre-schools and nurseries in the extended business rates holiday. Meanwhile schools have long been eligible for the DfE’s Covid workforce fund, while early education settings, who are also forced to pay over the odds for short term cover or to close, receive no help with staffing at all. 

“Early education professionals tell us time and again that they feel totally forgotten by this government, even as they risk their own and their families’ health and safety every time they go out to work. They should not have to suffer more of the same neglect.  

“If we are to come out of this pandemic, and indeed this winter wave, with our fantastic early years sector still intact, providers must be properly supported – financially and practically, and as both businesses and essential education settings – to ensure they can continue to deliver the early education and care that children need and families rely on.”