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NEWS: PACEY survey reveals devastating impact of COVID-19 on childcare provision

A new survey by PACEY has revealed the devastating impact the COVID-19 outbreak is having on childcare provision across England and Wales.

The survey, completed by over 6,000 childminders and other childcare providers, shows that the COVID-19 outbreak is set to have a long-term and damaging impact on the future sustainability of the childcare sector.

  • 46% of respondents have closed their setting for the foreseeable future due to coronavirus
  • 54% of respondents remain open as they are caring for the children of critical workers or vulnerable children
  • Of those who are open still, many are caring for drastically reduced numbers of children; 45% of these providers are concerned this is not financially viable for them going forward

With the necessary government closure of educational and childcare settings to all but those children of key workers or vulnerable children, most childcare providers have either closed or have seen significant reductions in the number of children they are caring for – and that means that their income is drastically reduced too.

Of those who have closed their setting, less than half (46%) say they plan to reopen within three months to a year.  A further 9% have already decided to close permanently or are undecided if they will reopen. Almost a third (27%) are unsure what they will do after the outbreak and need advice and support.

Liz Bayram, PACEY's Chief Executive, comments: “Whilst it is still early days, our interim findings paint a stark picture, with less than half the registered childcare providers who are currently closed saying they plan to reopen after coronavirus.

“We know government advice to close has been necessary to help slow the spread of coronavirus. We have urged every childcare provider in England and Wales to follow guidance but the number of early years and childcare providers is potentially going to reduce drastically unless the financial support promised by government is made available soon.

“We remain especially worried about the sustainability of the 40,000 registered childminders in England and Wales. Most do not qualify for the current government support available to business. They are self-employed sole traders; only 3% deliver early education places so will not benefit from continuation in that funding. Most are on low incomes, many are single parents and, as of today, can only look to the benefit system for support.

“Childminders provide over 250,0001 high quality, flexible childcare places for families and we need them and all the nursery and pre-school providers to still be in business, supporting parents to balance work and family commitments; and delivering early education to our youngest children once the pandemic is over. That is why we have written an open letter to the Chancellor, calling for an income guarantee for self-employed childminders unable to work, to ensure that they have the urgent financial help they need now to sustain their businesses for the future.

“More needs to be done to support childcare providers to survive the impact of coronavirus. We need to understand the long-term impact and the support all childcare providers will need, especially childminders, so that there is a strong early years and childcare sector that families can rely on when we all return to our normal working lives.”

Reasons for current closure:

  • 46% have not been asked to offer childcare to vulnerable and key workers children
  • 20% are closed because they are concerned about the health of staff/their family or themselves.
  • 35% have been told by current parents that their service is not needed, as they are working from home
  • 18% stated they were closed because they or someone else in their setting is unwell or self isolating
  • 9% stated they are in an ‘at risk’ group so self-isolating

Despite the current challenges facing childcare providers, our survey does hint at a more positive post-coronavirus early years and childcare sector. When asked what will happen when the pandemic has passed, over 70% of respondents said they plan to reopen. A further 27% felt they need help and advice in order to decide.

Liz Bayram continues: “We know that before the coronavirus we had a high quality childcare and early years sector; one that struggled with government underfunding but that was vibrant and with a wide variety of choice of provision for families. We can return to that in the future but only if government support for childcare businesses, including registered childminders, is urgently put in place and, rapidly following on from this, government works with the sector to define the support and advice all childcare providers will need to recover from this disaster and build up their childcare services once more.”

 

12019 Department for Education survey of early years and childcare providers in England