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BLOG: Brave New World? Closure of schools and early years settings in England- what does it mean for

Live or work in Wales? See our Wales specific information here.

Our world has been turned upside down by the coronavirus pandemic. Now that a lockdown for three weeks has been announced across the country, with everyone being encouraged to stay at home unless absolute necessary, childcarers and families nationwide have an unsettling time ahead. Guidance and clarification is still coming in from Government about what the closure of schools and registered early years settings (except those caring for the children of key workers and vulnerable children) will mean in practice.

Whilst these measures pose challenges to everyone, they have been put in place to help stop the spread of COVID-19. The more that we can all do to follow Government guidance and maintain social distancing where possible, the sooner we will be able to get the outbreak under control.

We have put together some practical guidance on what these changes mean for you and your setting in England.

For all settings, this is an evolving situation. Your local authority may decide to care for children of key workers and vulnerable children in a different way as the outbreak continues, for instance identifying a fewer number of schools and early years settings for children. Your local authority will be in touch if any changes are planned which will affect you.

Childcare settings with children of key worker or vulnerable children

You can continue to accept these children if there is no alternative care possible for them. Check which families apply here. Even if they fall into the key worker category, they may not be listed under their company’s business continuity plan as providing an essential service, so ask them to check with their employer.

All other children should remain at home to facilitate social distancing. In fact, every child who can be safely cared for at home should be, to limit the chance of the virus spreading.

What about my insurance?

Your PACEY insurance remains valid as you are providing childcare within guidelines set by the Government. You can take on additional children of key workers if you have vacancies, as long as you stay within your ratios and also stick to government guidance on social distancing.

What about fees?

Early years entitlements funding will continue to be paid during any periods of nursery, preschool or childminder closures, or where children cannot attend due to coronavirus. Contracts with parents may vary, depending on individual agreements, and also the terms in them. There’s more detail about your contracts here.

Childcare settings with no children of key workers or any vulnerable children

All registered settings, except those caring for the children of key workers or vulnerable children, are expected to close. This is to help in the fight against the spread of COVID-19 by encouraging people to remain at home and promote social distancing and/or self-isolation. However, it may take a few days for you and your parents to identify eligible children. This is an evolving situation, and you should use your judgement to do the right thing at this time, based on the latest advice from Government.

If you have had to close your setting because of COVID-19, whether that closure is temporary or because you have decided that now is the time to retire or otherwise stop working in childcare, please let Ofsted and your local authority know to help them monitor the availability of childcare.

What about my insurance?

Your PACEY insurance will no longer be valid for your setting if you have to close. PACEY insurance holders will be receiving information next week on how to freeze or cancel their current PACEY policy. If you are caring for the children of key workers / vulnerable children in line with government advice then your insurance remains valid.

If you are a childminder who is temporarily working as a nanny, your PACEY insurance will cover you but you should still ensure you are following government advice. Read further information here.

If you hold a policy with a different company, you should check the terms with your insurer.

What about fees?

Early years entitlements funding will continue to be paid during any periods of nursery, preschool or childminder closures, or where children cannot attend due to coronavirus (COVID-19). Contracts with parents may vary, depending on individual agreements, and also the terms in them. There’s more detail about your contracts at point 11 here

What support is available to childcare settings?

New measures announced today (24 March) set out a package of support to benefit childcare workers.

PACEY is campaigning hard for further support for self-employed childminders to help them through the COVID-19 outbreak and is in active discussion with Government about this important issue.

The measures announced today are:

  • Childcare providers will be eligible for a business rates holiday for one year. That means non-local authority providers of childcare (registered with Ofsted and providing EYFS) will pay no business rates in 2020 to 2021, from 1 April.
  • Nurseries in receipt of small business rate relief or rural rate relief will benefit from small business grant funding of £10,000. This includes nurseries who are eligible for a charitable status relief – they will also pay no business rates at all in 2020 to 2021. Some settings operating from shared spaces may now benefit from a 100% rates relief.
  • If you employ someone, the Government has made available a grant to cover the wages of staff who are not working due to the COVID-19 shutdowns. The grant from HMRC will cover 80 per cent of the salaries of retained workers who have to be furlonged due to the Coronavirus, up to £2,500 a month backdated to 1 March 2020. Providers can access this scheme while continuing to be paid the early entitlements funding via local authorities.
  • Interest free business loans are available to some businesses. We remain at this stage unable to clarify if registered childminders can access this loan facility, for example if they operate as a registered company

Other support available:

  • If you are not working, or sick, you will be able to claim Universal Credit or Contributory Employment and Support Allowance during the outbreak. If you or a member of staff are eligible for Statutory Sick Pay, this will be available from day one of self-isolation/sickness
  • For settings with fewer than 250 employees, the cost of providing 14 days of statutory sick pay per employee will be refunded by the government
  • There will be no rise in the fees paid by early years and childcare providers to register with Ofsted in 2020-21
  • Ofsted has suspended all routine inspections. You can find out more here
  • Details on other support available to businesses is available here

Nannies

Voluntary registered nannies are not included in the closure of educational and early years settings.  If you are a nanny, you must still follow government guidance around social distancing and self-isolation.

What about insurance?

Your PACEY insurance will be valid, subject to you meeting the usual criteria (that is that you can only work from the parents’ home and not your own and that you can care for up to two families’ children). If you do decide to provide this service to families, you must still follow government guidance around social distancing and self-isolation.

What support is available to me?

  • If you become unwell due to COVID-19 or have to self isolate because of suspected COVID-19, you could be entitled to statutory sick pay (SSP)
  • Your employee rights remain unaffected by COVID-19.

Other financial support

For all providers, including nannies, if you are concerned about meeting your tax payments this year, you can call a dedicated tax helpline on 0800 0159 559 for advice. You should also take time to talk to your bank, mortage provider and other financial services as some are offering support e.g. the possibility of deferring mortgage payments for up to three months

Coronavirus restrictions: a reminder

The new measures announced on 23 March by the Prime Minister to help control the spread of the virus are for everyone. These will last for three weeks and will then be reviewed.

Everyone must stay home unless absolutely necessary (shopping for ‘basic necessities’, medical reasons, to provide care or to help a vulnerable person, or travelling to and from work if ‘absolutely necessary’.

  • Shops selling "non-essential goods" including clothes and electronics stores are now closed
  • All libraries, playgrounds, outdoor gyms and places of worship are closed
  • Gatherings of more than two people (excluding people who live together in the same household) are banned
  • No weddings or baptisms will take place, but funerals will be allowed
  • Parks will remain open but people are only to go out to exercise once a day
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