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Councils call for extra support to help nurseries reopen

The Local Government Association (LGA) has called on ministers to ensure early years providers are adequately funded, as many prepare to reopen.

According to the LGA, more than 69,000 early years providers have temporarily closed during the coronavirus pandemic, with many settings citing financial difficulties as a key reason.

And it has warned among those that have remained open, many are operating at a loss.

Despite government funding for free early entitlements, the LGA said it is concerned that this alone is not enough to ensure providers can remain open without operating at a loss, while also supporting closed providers to ensure there are enough spaces for all children.

The LGA also said the government’s advice to early years settings around finance has been inconsistent, including changes to furlough advice and the use of the Dedicated Schools Grant.

It added this has made it very hard for settings to make informed business decisions while some early years settings have also struggled to access business support offered by the government, placing further pressures on their finances.

Last week, the Early Years Alliance criticised the government for failing to provide any financial support to childcare providers to help cover the additional costs of operating during the coronavirus outbreak.

In a letter sent to education secretary Gavin Williamson and children and families minister Vicky Ford, the organisation has called for financial support for the steps childcare providers need to take to keep their settings safe – such as additional cleaning and the purchase of PPE.

‘Childcare providers have been a vital part of the nation’s response to coronavirus and councils have been working closely with them to ensure that vulnerable children and critical workers have the childcare they need,’ said the chair of the LGA’s children and young people board, Cllr Judith Blake.

‘While providers have been asked to step up in the same way that schools have, their costs have not been covered in the same way.

‘These problems will not go away from 1 June as social distancing guidelines means that group sizes will need to be smaller and parents are needing to be reassured about the safety of sending their children to childcare,’ added Cllr Blake.

Photo Credit – Pixabay

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