Alliance calls for £240m early years funding in Spending Review
By Rachel Lawler
The Alliance is calling on the government to commit to a £240 million Early Years Sufficiency Fund at the upcoming Spending Review following a recent survey of providers.
The survey found that one in six early years providers could close by Christmas 2020 without additional funding, rising to one in four in the most deprived local authorities.
Just a quarter of the providers surveyed said that they expect to make a profit between now and March 2021.
More than half (51%) of those asked said they would need emergency funding to stay open for the next six months while two thirds (65%) said that the government had not done enough to support providers during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Increased costs and lower income
Many providers are still experiencing reduced demand for places, leaving them with lower income from fees and funding at a time when costs have increased due to the need for additional cleaning and staffing after the pandemic.
June Deebank, owner and manager of St Oswald's Pre-school in Rickmansworth said: “We have been significantly impacted by the lack of extra financial help for all the cleaning resources we have had to buy, and the cost of paying staff for extra time needed to clean.
“In addition, we are lower on numbers than previous years and so, are finding it hard to retain staff. At the moment, I am managing to do having to do so by not paying myself, but this is a situation that cannot continue."
Early Years Sufficency Fund
In response, the Alliance is calling for an emergency Early Years Sufficiency Fund targeted at childcare providers at risk of closure to ensure that there are enough childcare and early education places to meet the needs of children and families going forward.
Based on an analysis of the survey, independent researchers Ceeda estimate that around £240 million is needed to support the sector over the next six months.
Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Alliance, said: “We are now a critical moment for the early years sector. With demand for places still significantly below what would typically be expected, and no sign of things returning to normal any time soon, many nurseries, pre-schools and childminders are reaching the point of no return.
“Worse still, our survey shows that it is those early years settings providing vital care and education to families in the most deprived areas - who are already bearing the brunt of the impact of the pandemic – that are most at risk.
“There is absolutely no excuse for the government’s continued indifference towards the early years sector. It claims that children’s access to education during the pandemic is a top priority, and yet it is apparently perfectly happy to see thousands of early education providers fall by the wayside. It argues that safeguarding the economy is critical to the country’s recovery, but chooses to ignore the fact that there can be no recovery without a functioning early years sector providing the quality care that parents and families need.
“Quality early years provision is a central part of our social infrastructure, and should be treated as such. It’s not too late for the government to show that it recognises the value of the sector – both to the young children who benefit from quality early education, and the parents, and particularly mothers, who benefit from accessible care – and make the investment needed to safeguard the many thousands of providers in desperate need of support.”