More support needed or nurseries will close

The Early Years Alliance has warned that thousands of nurseries are set to close unless the government provides more financial support to sustain them during the coronavirus pandemic.

Parliament has passed the Coronavirus Bill which will provide powers to instruct childcare providers to close or stay open. This followed Education Secretary Gavin Williamson revealing that nurseries and schools would close from Monday (23 March), except those caring for vulnerable children and those of key workers.

All private, voluntary and independent nurseries – of which there are more than 20,000 in the UK – will be exempt from business rates for one year from 1 April.

Although the government has confirmed that funding for the free early-years entitlements for two to four-year olds will continue and not be clawed back, Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Early Years Alliance, said the measures failed to go ‘far enough to safeguard the early years sector at this crucial time’.

He said: “Many nurseries, pre-schools and particularly childminders are heavily reliant on parent fees as a source of revenue, and so given that all providers are now expected to close – either partially or fully – for an extended period of time, there’s no doubt that many will experience significant losses. If the government doesn’t commit to a significant financial package of the support for the early years, the sector may not survive this crisis.”

Lucy Powell, Labour’s Shadow Education Secretary, has written to Williamson asking him to set out further support for nurseries to prevent them from facing financial ruin.

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