FAQs - Coronavirus

Unsurprisingly there have been thousands of questions asked in the last few days about the impact COVID-19 will have on your childcare business.

Remember that the Department for Education, Ofsted, and other government departments are producing guidance and FAQs about COVID-19 which may help. 

The Department for Education in England has launched a helpline to answer questions related to education about COVID-19. Staff, parents and young people can contact the helpline between 8am and 6pm, Monday to Friday by calling 0800 046 8687 or emailing DfE.coronavirushelpline@education.gov.uk 

Full guidance for educational settings in England is available here.

PACEY members can contact the legal helpline for advice.

We've collated the most frequently asked questions and grouped them by theme. These FAQ relate to settings in England only.

Enforced closure

Which types of childcare providers are affected by the announcement?

All registered childcare providers, including early years settings, childminders and providers of childcare for school age children, are being asked to close from the evening of Friday 20 March 2020 until further notice, except to care for children of key workers and vulnerable children. 

The early years and childcare sector is being asked to play a key part in the country’s ongoing response to COVID-19. 

Any children who usually attend your setting who do not fall into these groups should now remain at home with appropriate care.

What should providers do?

As a country we all need to do what we can to reduce the spread of COVID-19. The most recent scientific advice on how to further limit the spread of COVID-19 is clear. If children can safely stay safely at home, they should.

It is important to underline that schools, colleges and childcare establishments remain safe places for children. But the fewer children making the journey to these settings, and the fewer children in educational settings, the lower the risk that the virus can spread and infect vulnerable individuals in wider society.

Nurseries, childminders and registered childcare providers, therefore, are being asked to continue to provide care for a limited number of children - children who are vulnerable and children whose parents are critical to the COVID-19 response and cannot be safely cared for at home.

Not all providers will know which of the families they currently care for are included in these priority groups, but you should use the published guidance to determine whether or not the parents you work with fall into this group. 

It may take a few days for providers to talk to current 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. We expect there to be more, local authority support in the coming days to help providers make sure that they are only opening to support these children and families.

Can a childcare provider who provides services to key workers stay open to all their existing children?

No. The government has asked parents to keep their children at home, wherever possible, and asked schools and early years and childcare settings to remain open only for vulnerable children and those of key workers who absolutely need to attend.

What if I don't want to close?

We are sorry but you have no choice. You have to close. The only exceptions are to be able to provide childcare or education for vulnerable children or the children of key workers.

The emergency powers to force the closure of registered childcare settings are included in the emergency Covid Bill. Among other things, this sets out what the enforcement action will be against any registered childcare provider setting that refuses to close.

PACEY is working to ensure government gives all registered childcare settings, including childminders, financial support if they have to close.

Who is policing the closures and checking who is open or not?

Ofsted will investigate any reports of unregistered childcare and consider legal enforcement action against those who set up, or open after an enforced closure, in line with their duties as a regulator. This is in order to keep children as safe as possible in these difficult times. You can find more information on Ofsted’s response to COVID-19.

The emergency powers to force the closure of registered childcare settings will be included in the emergency Covid Bill that is currently going through Parliament (expected to become law no later than Friday 27 March. Among other things, this will set out what the enforcement action will be against any registered childcare provider setting that refuses to close.

PACEY is working to ensure government gives all registered childcare settings, including childminders, financial support and assistance to help them navigate these difficult times and their enforced closure.

People on social media are already offering unregistered childcare. What protection is in place to prevent this happening?

The government is clear that people should be staying at home and ensuring social distancing to help defeat this virus. If it is at all possible for children to be at home, then they should be. Parents should do everything they can to ensure children are not mixing socially in a way which can continue to spread the virus. Children should observe the same social distancing principles as adults. Where a child needs specialist support, is vulnerable or has a parent who is a key worker, then appropriate educational or childcare provision will be available for them.

Ofsted is aware that these are extremely worrying times for both providers and parents. However, the health, safety and well-being of children is their first consideration and Government continues to expect childcare to take place only within existing registered settings.

Ofsted will consider legal enforcement action against those who set up unregistered childcare, in line with their duties as a regulator. This is in order to keep children as safe as possible in these difficult times. You can find more information on Ofsted’s response to COVID-19.

Why aren’t childminders in England being treated the same as Ireland, Wales and Scotland, and being allowed to remain open?

Education and childcare are legislative powers that have been devolved to these home nations. This means they make their own decisions on childcare including how they are responding to the Covid 19 pandemic. Whilst much of their response will be similar to that in England, their governments have decided to do some things differently. This may be because their communities need different responses or because the pandemic is progressing differently.

How will the emergency legislation (Coronavirus Bill) affect the childcare sector?

  1. The legislation being introduced covers a wide range of areas, including education. When passed, it will give the Secretary of State for Education three powers that are relevant to the early years and childcare sector:
  1. The power to instruct schools and registered childcare providers (including nurseries, childminders and providers of childcare for school-age children) to close for a period. This is the “temporary closure” power and could be used in a number of ways. For example, the instruction might be nation-wide, or focused on one area; or it might focus on one kind of childcare provider.
  2. The power to temporarily require schools and registered childcare providers (including nurseries and providers of childcare for school-age children – but NOT childminders) to change the delivery of provision. For example, they might be required to: stay open; re-open; open for different hours; or take on additional functions – such as a school making space for nursery provision. It can also be used to enable staff and children to go from one venue to another. The reason childminders are not included in this power is that as self-employed individuals, it would not be reasonable to require them to open for longer or take on additional functions.
  3. The power to temporarily disapply certain requirements in education and childcare legislation. For early years and childcare, this only applies to the duties placed on local authorities, such as the duty to ensure sufficient childcare for parents who need it. That is because other changes that may be required, such as temporary changes to the Early Years Foundation Stage Framework, can be done through secondary legislation.

What do I need to tell Ofsted?

Ofsted has confirmed that you do not need to let them know if you are closed due to COVID-19 – whether that’s because you are not caring for the children of critical workers or vulnerable children, or because you are ill.

Please do continue to tell Ofsted if you are resigning your registration by emailing enquiries@ofsted.gov.uk and including your EY number. Please contact them using an email or phone number that is already known to them, and associated with your registration.

 

Families and children eligible for ongoing care

What is the definition of a “vulnerable child”?

“Vulnerable children” include those who are supported by social care, those with safeguarding and welfare needs, including child in need plans, on child protection plans, "looked after" children, young carers, disabled children and those with Education, Health and Care Plans.

The government is aware that schools and childcare settings may also want to support other children facing social difficulties and they will, where possible, support setting leaders to do so. 

Which occupations will feature on the list of critical workers and how will we know if a child’s parent is a critical worker?

The Cabinet Office has published a list of key workers which includes those working in health and social care; education and childcare, including childminders; key public services; local and national government; food and necessary goods; public safety and national security; transport; and utilities, communication and financial services. 

The message remains the same, though - that where a child can be cared for safely from home, they should be. This is to support social distancing measures to reduce the spread of the virus.

How will providers be expected to prove that a parent is a key worker?

This is the government’s Key Worker list. If workers think they fall within the critical categories listed, they should confirm with their employer that, based on their business continuity arrangements, their specific role is necessary for the continuation of this essential public service. Childcare providers are being asked to use their best judgement in this challenging time but you can seek advice from your local authority if you have concerns.

Guidance from the DfE says that you can ask for simple evidence that the parent in question is a critical worker, such as their work ID badge or payslip.

You can also make the decision not to provide a place where you are confident that a parent does not meet the government definition of a critical worker. If problems occur that cannot be resolved between the provider and parents, settings should speak to their local authority.

Will my PACEY PLI insurance cover me if I remain open for vulnerable children and those of key workers?

If you have a setting which remains open because you are caring for vulnerable children or those of key workers (as defined in DfE guidance) then your insurance remains valid as you are providing childcare within guidelines set by the government. 

If you have vacancies generated by children who have had to leave, then your insurance will cover you to fill those spaces with vulnerable children or those of key workers (as defined in DfE guidance) so long as you stay within your ratios. You must also have the necessary health information on those children and have completed registration forms as you would normally do. It would also be important to inform your local authority of the children you are caring for.

If only one parent or carer is a critical worker, can their child(ren) attend a setting?

Children with at least one parent or carer who is critical to the COVID-19 response can attend a registered childcare setting (or combination if they are of school age and need out of school care) if required.

However, many families with a parent or carer working in critical sectors will be able to ensure their child is kept at home. Every child who can be safely cared for at home should be, to limit the chance of the virus spreading.

We are currently awaiting guidance from DfE as to how best to support the drop off and pick up of children at school. That said, all the current advice on social distancing will apply.

Are parents studying nursing/midwifery etc. on the key worker list?

Some students are still expected to work placement days at a hospital, even though classes are cancelled. When should settings provide care?

Although nurses and midwives are on the government’s key worker list, it is unclear if this covers student nurses. If any worker thinks they fall within the critical categories listed, they should confirm with their employer, or education provider that, based on their organisation's business continuity arrangements, their specific role is necessary for the continuation of essential public service.

However, even for children of key workers, the key priority from the government is still that if it is at all possible for children to be at home, then they should be. Therefore, you would only provide care on the days where a key worker is expected to work, not study.

Key workers are having leave cancelled and expected to work 12 hour shifts – how can childcare providers cover these shift patterns?

While there are no new rules about opening hours, providers should try to be as flexible as possible for critical workers who work shifts or atypical hours. Ofsted are considering the rules around flexibility of the entitlements and will provide further information if these change.

New legislation will give Ofsted and DfE power to temporarily require schools and registered childcare providers (including nurseries and providers of childcare for school-age children – but NOT childminders) to change the delivery of provision.

For example, they might be required to: stay open; re-open; open for different hours; or take on additional functions – such as a school making space for nursery provision. It can also be used to enable staff and children to go from one venue to another. The reason childminders are not included in this power is that as self-employed individuals, it would not be reasonable to require them to open for longer or take on additional functions.

How do parents who are key workers but who do not currently use childcare, find local settings with available spaces to enable them to work more hours

LAs are responsible for coordinating a response to the new arrangements. Working with education settings, they should use the critical worker list and the definition of vulnerable children to support childcare settings to ensure that there is sufficiency of places for children of critical workers and vulnerable children.

This system will take a few days for LAs to establish so, in the meantime, providers are asked to use their judgement and local connections with other providers to support these children.

If a key worker has a child of both school age, and one in the early years, could both children attend the childminder’s setting?

Yes, as long as you can demonstrate that all children in your care are safe. Ofsted considers the extent of the COVID-19 outbreak to be an exceptional temporary circumstance in which the staff to child ratios set out in the EYFS can be changed if necessary. However, you remain responsible for ensuring the safety and security of all the children in your care.

Government have stated that the first aim of the partial closure measures is to reduce the overall population of children and families moving around local areas as far as possible, in order to further reduce the number of social interactions and thus flatten the upward curve of the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. Where possible, parents need to consider using one childcare setting for all their care to minimise risk.

Can I still open one day a week voluntary to help parents work?

No, everyone is being asked to follow these key principles:

  • If it is at all possible for children to be at home, then they should be.
  • If a child needs specialist support, is vulnerable or has a parent who is a critical worker, then educational provision will be available for them.
  • Parents should not rely for childcare upon those who are advised to be in the stringent social distancing category such as grandparents, friends, or family members with underlying conditions.
  • Parents should also do everything they can to ensure children are not mixing socially in a way which can continue to spread the virus. They should observe the same social distancing principles as adults.The latest stringent guidance from the government states that every citizen must comply with the three new measures:
    1. Stay at home, except for very limited purposes
    2. Closing non-essential shops and community spaces
    3. Stopping all gatherings of more than two people in public
  • Residential special schools, boarding schools and special settings continue to care for children wherever possible.

What will happen through the Easter and summer holidays?

Where possible, Ofsted encourages childcare providers and schools to continue to look after critical workers’ children and vulnerable children throughout the Easter holidays if their parents cannot safely support them to stay at home.

One of the children in my setting is still waiting for their EHC plan to be agreed. Will they qualify for care?

If the local authority has not yet issued an EHC plan for the child, then they will not automatically fall within the definition of ‘vulnerable children’ for the purposes of attendance at an education setting during the COVID-19 outbreak. However, their educational setting and local authority have discretion to undertake a risk assessment and offer support if that is needed. PACEY would recommend that you speak to the parents and your local authority to get more information on what will happen in your specific circurmstance.

If the child has an EHC plan the local authority remains responsible for maintaining it, including until any appeal to the tribunal has been heard and resolved.

DfE are also proposing to amend regulations to provide for flexibility over matters such as the timescales in EHC needs assessments, and the reviews, re-assessments and amendments process where particular cases are affected by the COVID-19 situation.

For more information, read the DfE guidance for vulnerable children and yound people.

Choosing not to offer or use a service

Do I have to stay open for vulnerable children or those of key workers?

No.

If you are currently caring for an eligible child, but you think it is not viable to operate with just one child, you can refuse. Good practice would be to support the child’s transition to a new setting by contacting your local authority and continuing to provide care if you can for the next week at least. Local authorities are working hard to organise provision for these children but it will take time.

If you have a need to self-isolate then you must close. The government is clear that people should be staying at home and ensuring social distancing and, where appropriate, self- and household isolation to help defeat this virus.

Are schools allowed to turn away/decide not to make provision for pupils, even if they fall in to the key worker list?

Ofsted is asking all childcare providers to remain open for vulnerable children and the children of critical workers where possible. They understand that some settings may be unable to stay open, especially if they are experiencing severe staff shortages due to self-isolation and sickness.

Local authorities will work with local providers to determine the best way to support vulnerable children and the children of critical workers.

If the child of a key worker has asthma, should they come to your setting?

The government guidance states that those with severe asthma should follow Shielding measures. Those that need to follow shielding guidance will receive a letter, or be contacted by their GP/hospital clinician, by Sunday 29 March 2020. PACEY would recommend, if in any doubt, that the child’s parent calls their GP/hospital clinician to confirm whether or not their child should stay at home.

Shielding is a practice used to protect extremely vulnerable people from coming into contact with coronavirus. Those with an underlying health condition, including children, are at very high risk of severe illness as a result of coronavirus (COVID-19) requiring admission to hospital. These individuals are strongly advised to stay at home at all times and avoid any face-to-face contact for a period of at least 12 weeks. Find out more about the government’s guidance on Shielding.

 

Should a child be at home if they have Type 1 diabetes?

Yes. According to Diabetes UK, if you have diabetes, you are at increased risk of severe illness from coronavirus (COVID-19). The current government guidance states you should be particularly stringent in following social distancing measures, including significantly limiting face-to-face interaction with friends and family if possible.

If a childminder has underlying health conditions, should they be working? Should they still offer services for key workers?

The government are strongly advising people with serious underlying health conditions which put them at very high risk of severe illness from coronavirus (COVID-19) to rigorously follow shielding measures in order to keep themselves safe.

You are strongly advised to stay at home at all times and avoid any face-to-face contact for a period of at least 12 weeks. For more details, visit the Shielding advice on the government’s website.

Local authorities will work with local providers to determine the best way to support vulnerable children and the children of critical workers if their usual setting is unable to open.

If a key worker doesn’t need childcare, do they still need to give their provider notice (as per contract), if the setting is still open?

It would depend on the terms of their contract. However, Ofsted ask that providers are reasonable and balanced in their dealings with parents. They will not be clawing back early years entitlements funding from local authorities during closures, or where children are withdrawn because of COVID-19.

The government has already introduced a range of measures to support businesses and workers during this period. PACEY continues to call for more support for self-employed childminders, and Ofsted will be keeping what further support businesses may require under close review.

Taking on new children

If a childcare provider doesn’t have key worker children, can they advertise to support key worker children?

Wherever possible, it is best to ensure consistency of care for vulnerable children and those of critical workers. That said this may not always be possible. LAs are responsible for coordinating a response to the new arrangements. Working with childcare settings, they should use the critical worker list and the definition of vulnerable children to support childcare settings to ensure that there is sufficiency of places for children of critical workers and vulnerable children.

LAs are also responsible for monitoring demand and capacity. This may involve working with childcare providers to provide places in alternative settings if necessary. If you have vacancies and would like to offer support to these children, contact your LA in the first instance.

They are also responsible for supporting childcare providers to assess the risks for children and young people whose Education, Health & Care Plans they maintain and ensuring those children are safely cared for whether at a setting or at home.

Is there any flexibility in ratios?

Paragraph 3.30 of the EYFS states that ‘Exceptionally, and where the quality of care and safety and security of children is maintained, changes to the ratios may be made.’ Ofsted considers the extent of the COVID-19 outbreak to be an exceptional temporary circumstance in which the staff to child ratios set out in the EYFS can be changed if necessary. However, childcare providers or schools remain responsible for ensuring the safety and security of children in their care.

 

Accessing financial support

What about being paid and financial support? 

The Government wants to support nurseries, pre-schools and childminders to sustain their invaluable services during what is a worrying and uncertain time. There is a clear commitment to there being high-quality childcare available when this Coronavirus crisis has passed. 

The Government will continue to pay funding to local authorities for the free entitlements for 2-, 3- and 4-year-olds, providing reassurance for some early years settings. Local authorities should follow the Department for Education’s (DfE) position and to continue early entitlements funding for all childminders, schools and nurseries currently delivering hours to children in their setting, regardless of whether or not children are able to attend due to Coronavirus. 

In addition, to support nurseries at this time, the Chancellor has announced they will be eligible for a business rates holiday for one year. That means non-local authority providers of childcare will pay no business rates in 2020-21, from 1 April. 

DfE is aware that more help is urgently needed. PACEY has been clear to Government that registered childcare providers’ sustainability depends on the private fees that parents pay on top of their early education entitlements; that many private, voluntary and independent providers have already been told by families that they either no longer plan to attend their setting due to self-isolation or have decided to permanently stop their child attending the setting. 

It is understood how much more damage to your sustainability the necessary decision to close settings to all but vulnerable children and those of key workers will have. PACEY will continue to work, alongside the rest of the sector, with the DfE to rapidly find the best ways to reduce the negative impact of these closures.

Aside from this, a range of other sources of support already been announced by Government, including details of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and Self-employment Income Support Scheme. You should take time to understand what help you can already access. As more elements of support are identified, we will be updating our information on how you can find help.

The government have also published a new Coronavirus business hub designed to be the first point of call for people seeking government information on support for business. 

There is huge concern that some childminders will have no income. What is being done about this?

Government has announced a package of support for workers and businesses:

  • Childcare providers will be eligible for a business rates holiday for one year. That means non-local authority providers of childcare (registered with Ofsted) will pay no business rates in 2020-21, from 1 April. This will happen automatically and more information can be found here.
  • Self-employed childminders can claim a grant through the coronavirus (COVID-19) Self-employment Income Support Scheme. This scheme will allow you to claim a taxable grant worth 80% of your trading profits up to a maximum of £2,500 per month for the next 3 months. More information can be found here.
  • For employees (including Childminding Assistants) who are not working but kept on payroll, the Government will contribute 80% of a worker’s wages of up to £2,500, backdated to 1 March 2020, as part of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.
  • VAT payments for next quarter will be deferred, therefore they will not need to be paid until March 2021.
  • Working tax credit has been increased by £1,000 a year.
  • For the self-employed (including childminders) the minimum income floor will be suspended meaning Universal Credit can be accessed at a rate to match statutory sick pay (SSP).

PACEY will continue to push Government to support you to stay in business and be able to deliver the childcare families will need after the pandemic. We are continuing to meet regularly with the Department for Education, and we recently submitted evidence to the Treasury Committee.

Will PACEY refund membership and public liability premiums paid whilst members cannot work as a result of being closed?

With almost all providers having to close in England, some of you have been in touch asking to freeze or cancel your PACEY insurance and/or membership. We know you will be facing financial struggles over the coming weeks and fully understand why you may want to do this. We will of course do what you request but we must ask that, if you:

  • value the support and advice we are providing you now;
  • want us to continue to push Government to provide support for self-employed childminders and for all the other settings that have had to close,
  • want us to provide the advice and guidance you will need to re-establish your childcare business after the pandemic,

then we need your continued support as a member. Without your membership subscription and insurance fee, PACEY will not have the funds it needs to continue to support you. As a charity, we receive very little grant funding from government or other funders. The majority of our income comes from the membership subscriptions; sales of insurance, training and other products and services that you and other members buy.

Later this week we will set up a new system to help us process your requests to freeze or cancel membership and/or insurance as soon as we can. But we ask you - wherever possible - to consider freezing your membership rather than cancelling it all together, especially if you plan to reopen your setting after the pandemic. If you do freeze rather than cancel, PACEY has decided to continue to provide you with access to all its digital advice and support, including our much valued legal advice service, so that you can stay connected with your sector colleagues and get all the support you need from us to manage your setting through this pandemic and reopen when we have all defeated the Coronavirus.

If a childminder is open, even if it is for one child of a key worker, does that mean they would be ineligible for the support packages available?

That is unclear at present and we will continue pushing the DfE for more guidance on this matter urgently.

Are childminders expected to pay assistants when the setting is closed?

Where it is possible to furlough rather than make an employee redundant, the Chancellor of the Exchequer announced on 20/03/2020 that Government is to pay 80% of wages for employees unable to work due the coronavirus pandemic, up to £2,500 a month.

The new Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme will be relevant to any childcare provider employing staff who has had to close their setting or is at risk of making their staff redundant due to the Coronavirus. Any employer in the country – small or large, charitable or non-profit – will be eligible for the scheme.

Employers will be able to contact HMRC for a grant to cover most of the wages of people who are “not working but are furloughed and kept on payroll”, rather than being laid off.

What happens to funding when settings do their ‘actuals’ and they are closed on census day?

The Government will continue to pay funding to local authorities for the free entitlements for 2-, 3- and 4-year-olds, providing reassurance for some early years settings. Local authorities should follow the Department for Education’s (DfE) position and to continue early entitlements funding for all childminders, schools and nurseries currently delivering hours to children in their setting, regardless of whether or not children are able to attend due to Coronavirus.

Each local authority will have their own way of managing the physical paperwork associated with funding, so we recommend you speak to your local Early Years team.

 

What about the contracts I already have with parents?

All childcare businesses are individual, and you will know your business and your parents best. Consumer law makes clear that normally you should not charge for a service that your customer (in this case your parents) cannot use. As your setting is closed it is very difficult to continue to charge your parents, especially if as has been indicated by government, the shutdown due to Covid 19 goes on for some months. You may want follow the example of some childcare settings who are not charging their monthly fees but are asking parents who can afford to pay, to pay a voluntary monthly retainer fee to help you stay viable and able to open your childcare business after the pandemic. Whilst not all parents will be able to do so – especially if they are also self-employed, for example - some may be happy to support you in this way as they will value and need your childcare service in the future. If you do decide to propose a retainer to the families using your service, it will help to explain how this retainer will help you to cover the business costs that you will continue to incur even if you are closed e.g. insurance.

The government has raised concerns that a small number of childcare providers are continuing to charge parents for a childcare service that is closed, and have asked that providers are reasonable and balanced in their dealings with parents. 

We know that, whilst Government has created a range of financial support available to childcare providers to help them cope with the financial impact of Coronavirus, this is not available to all. Childminders, in particular, have only just had support as a self-employed person confirmed and this help will not be available until June. Furthermore it isn’t going to help all self-employed childminders, especially newly registered. So PACEY continues to raise these issues with HMT and the DfE to try to secure more help and support.

Ultimately, you will need to decide if proposing a retainer fee is something your parents will be willing to pay, potentially for the next 3-4 months. You will have to balance your immediate financial concerns with your longer term needs. Coronavirus will eventually end and you will want to ensure your current parents, where possible, return to use your service when things get back to normal

PACEY members can contact the legal team for advice on individual contracts.

What if I decide to close my setting, even for key workers, because I am concerned about my health or my family's health?

In normal circumstances, contractually, you would be obliged to provide the childcare service for at least the agreed notice period. But these are not normal circumstances and in England you are being asked to close by Government.

If you have to close your setting, you are not breaching your contract with current parents. The emergency legislation means you must follow guidance and close.

If you choose to close your setting to current parents who are eligible for continued childcare as they have a vulnerable child or are key workers, then technically, there is a risk of a breach of contract if you don’t provide the service. But that risk is low. Before making any claim, these parents would be under a duty to mitigate their losses i.e. they would need to find other childcare provision and that would mean that the only claim would be for a difference in fees. So for example, if a one childminder charges £100 per week and another childminder charges £110 for a week the claim would be for the difference (£10).

Given the current situation eligible parents are likely to be able to find other childcare provision for their child.

In addition, these are unprecedented circumstances. A court is likely to be understanding, especially if a childminder has been advised by the government to have very little social contact if, for example, if they have underlying health conditions and/or are in the higher risk categories advised to self-isolate for 12 weeks. 

Why do PACEY contracts not contain a force majeure clause?

Unfortunately, these are unprecedented circumstances.  The view of our legal team is that even with a force majeure clause, it would be extremely unlikely any business could continue to charge customers for a significant period of time without providing their services. In writing our PACEY contracts, we also have to be mindful of the unfair contract terms provisions contained in the Consumer Rights Act 2015.

Government has also made clear that it does not want providers to continue to charge parents for a childcare service that is closed. There is a range of financial support available to childcare providers to help them cope with the financial impact of Coronavirus. Given this, Government and Ofsted have asked that providers are reasonable and balanced in their dealings with parents.

You will know your business and your parents best. Whilst you should not charge them when your setting is closed, you could follow the example of some childcare settings who are not charging but are asking parents who can afford to pay, to pay a voluntary monthly retainer fee to help you stay viable and able to open your childcare business after the pandemic. Whilst not all parents will be able to do so, some may be happy to support you in this way as they will need your childcare service in the future.

Will the childcare grant services for students still pay out for the hours lost over the time childminders are closed?

We are still awaiting confirmation from government.

My childminding business is a limited company, does this make me an employee of my business, and applicable for the Job Retention scheme?

If you are a childminder who is registered with Companies House as a limited company, then depending on your circumstances, you may be able to class yourself as an employee. A limited company is seen in law as a separate legal person, but you would need to look at all the circumstances.                                 

Three important questions would be:

• Does the childminder have a contract of employment with the limited company?

• Does that contract of employment create mutual obligations for the childminder and the limited company? I.e. is there guaranteed work and an obligation to attend work?

• Does the limited company pay the childminder through PAYE and make deductions for tax and national insurance?

If your answer is yes to all three, then it is highly likely that you would be considered an employee of the limited company.

The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme is a temporary scheme open to all UK employers for at least three months starting from 1 March 2020. Employers can use a portal to claim for 80% of furloughed employees’ (employees on a leave of absence) usual monthly wage costs, up to £2,500 a month. For more information, visit gov.uk.

How can parents, particularly the most vulnerable, pay childcare fees that they cannot afford?

DfE asks that providers are reasonable and balanced in their dealings with parents. They will not be clawing back early years entitlements funding from local authorities during closures, or where children are withdrawn because of COVID-19. This protects a significant proportion of some childcare providers’ income. The government has already introduced a range of measures to support businesses and workers during this period. Ofsted will be keeping what further support businesses may require under close review. That said, PACEY has made clear this is not the case for most self-employed childminders.

PACEY will continue to push Government to support all childcare providers to stay in business, and be able to deliver the childcare families will need after the pandemic. Self-employed childminders still have no support from government, despite being told to close. This is not good enough and we will be pushing for more support at our next meeting with the Department for Education, as well as submitting evidence to the Treasury Committee.

Self-employed people

What do I do if I don’t qualify for the self-employed help scheme?

Consider applying for the other available options. A self-employed person could be entitled to a combination of Universal Credit + new style Employment and Support Allowance + Local Housing Allowance + Child Benefits to see them through the next few months depending on their circumstances.
Removing the minimum income floor means benefits will no longer assume that you earn a minimum amount and will take into account your actual earnings – meaning it will properly catch those who have seen their income fall to nothing.
In addition to these measures the government has worked to reduce the fixed outgoings of self-employed people. So you may also benefit from:

  • Rent deferral
  • Mortgage deferral
  • Tax Bill deferral
  • Business VAT deferral
  • IR35 deferral

How will I survive until June?

PACEY has been clear to Government that registered childcare providers’ sustainability depends on the support they receive over the coming weeks and months.

In addition to the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme, the government is also providing the following additional help for the self-employed:

If you’re a director of your own company and paid through PAYE you may be able to get support using the Job Retention Scheme.

PACEY understand how much more damage to your sustainability the necessary decision to close settings to all but vulnerable children and those of key workers will have. We will continue to work with the DfE to rapidly find the best ways to reduce the negative impact of these closures.

If you apply for the self-employed scheme, can you apply for Universal Credit, or other sources of government support as well?

Yes. A self-employed person could be entitled to a combination of Universal Credit + new style Employment and Support Allowance + Local Housing Allowance + Child Benefits to see them through the next few months depending on their circumstances.

Removing the minimum income floor means benefits will no longer assume that you earn a minimum amount and will take into account your actual earnings – meaning it will properly catch those who have seen their income fall to nothing.

In addition to these measures the government has worked to reduce the fixed outgoings of self-employed people. So you may also benefit from:

  • Rent deferral
  • Mortgage deferral
  • Tax Bill deferral
  • Business VAT deferral
  • IR35 deferral

I need to pay staff – how can I now?

If you are still delivering a service and have staff working for you, you may be able to apply for the new Business Interruption Loan to help you meet immediate expenses, for example wages bills. Read more at https://www.british-business-bank.co.uk/ourpartners/coronavirus-business-interruption-loan-scheme-cbils-2/for-businesses-and-advisors/

If you have staff with no work to do because of COVID-19, consider furloughing them to claim 80% of their salary without making them redundant. There’s more information about this here: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/claim-for-wage-costs-through-the-coronavirus-job-retention-scheme

Is it the 18/19 tax return or the 19/20 tax return?

The 18/19 tax return that was submitted at the end of January 2020 is required. If you missed the deadline you have a further four weeks to submit it.

I have been registered for less than a year, can I qualify?

I started in January 2020 how am I impacted? // I have been open for six months, do I qualify? // I only submitted six months’ worth of tax return – is that what it would be based off?
In all of the above situations you’re unlikely to quality for the grant. Consider applying for the other available options. A self-employed person could be entitled to a combination of Universal Credit + new style Employment and Support Allowance + Local Housing Allowance + Child Benefits to see them through the next few months depending on their circumstances.

Removing the minimum income floor means benefits will no longer assume that you earn a minimum amount and will take into account your actual earnings – meaning it will properly catch those who have seen their income fall to nothing.

In addition to these measures the government has worked to reduce the fixed outgoings of self-employed people. So you may also be able to benefit from:

  • Rent deferral
  • Mortgage deferral
  • Tax Bill deferral
  • Business VAT deferral
  • IR35 deferral

You may also want to contact your local authority to see if there are key workers' children or vulnerable children in need of childcare that you might be able to help.

I’ve given staff four weeks’ notice to finish on 9th April – I don’t have enough money to pay now, what should I do?

If you are giving notice because there is not enough work to do because of the COVID-19 outbreak, consider furloughing staff instead. By doing this, the government will cover the cost of 80% of their full salary for the duration of the crisis. This allows the staff some security. The Chancellor says the scheme will be open "before the end of April", and wages will be paid backdated to 1 March. The scheme is wide-ranging and designed to provide support to all businesses who face temporary difficulties because of COVID-19. Please see the full guidance at https://www.gov.uk/guidance/claim-for-wage-costs-through-the-coronavirus-job-retention-scheme

Are childminders entitled to apply for the new Business Interruption Loan?

Any business that meets the loan criteria is entitled to apply for a Business Interruption Loan. Eligibility criteria include businesses which are UK-based in business activity; have an annual turnover of no more than £45 million; and have a borrowing proposal which the lender would consider viable, were it not for the COVID-19 pandemic and believes will enable you to trade out of any short-term to medium-term difficulty. Businesses from any sector can apply, except for banks and building societies; insurers and reinsurers (but not insurance brokers); public-sector organisations, including state-funded primary and secondary schools; employer, professional, religious or political membership organisations and trade unions.

Read the full guidance and detail of how to apply at https://www.british-business-bank.co.uk/ourpartners/coronavirus-business-interruption-loan-scheme-cbils-2/for-businesses-and-advisors/

If two people co-childmind, but only one childminder is currently working, can the other claim Universal Credit and/or Self-Employment Income Support?

Yes, these benefits are based on your own individual earnings. There may also be other forms of support available depending on whether you are self-employed individuals or directors of the same company.

Will I qualify for support if I am still open and caring for the children of key support workers?

You are still able to qualify if you are supporting key workers' children or vulnerable children but on reduced earning due to COVID-19. How much this impacts on your claim will depend on your previous tax history so PACEY cannot provide advice. HMRC will contact everyone who qualifies for this support in June.

Will I qualify for support if parents are still paying a percentage to keep places open?

The criteria for qualification for this help is based on your previous tax returns. The financial support you receive will depend on your previous tax history so PACEY cannot provide advice. HMRC will contact everyone who qualifies for this support in June.

If you are married and partner earns a certain amount, are you eligible still?

This depends on your personal circumstances so PACEY cannot provide advice. HMRC will contact everyone who qualifies for this support in June

Nannies

Does this closure include nannies on Ofsted’s voluntary register? 

No, voluntary registered nannies are not included in the closure. 

Can existing nannies continue to operate?

Voluntary registered nannies are not included in the closure. However, Government has made clear that everyone should stay home and practice social distancing wherever possible. This means whilst PACEY’s PLI will continue to cover non-registered nannies, subject to them meeting the usual criteria (that is that they can only work from the parents’ home and not their own and that they can care for up to two families’ children) it does mean you may not following government advice on how best to tackle the Coronavirus.

If you do decide to provide this service to families, you must still follow Government guidance around social distancing and self-isolation.

Can childminders choose to provide services as a nanny?

Government has made clear that everyone should stay home and practice social distancing wherever possible. This means whilst PACEY’s PLI does also cover childminders to temporarily work as non-registered nannies, subject to them meeting the usual criteria (that is that they can only work from the parents’ home and not their own and that they can care for up to two families’ children) it does mean you are not following government advice on how best to tackle the Coronavirus. 

If you do decide to provide this service to families, you must still follow Government guidance around social distancing and self-isolation.

Will PACEY’s PLI continue to cover Nannies to work?

Yes. Your insurance remains valid as long as you are meeting the usual criteria (that is that you only work from the parents’ home and not your own, and that you care for no more than two families’ children) and are providing childcare within the latest guidelines set by the government, which include keeping children within their family home except for very limited purposes.

Nannies who are PACEY members can access our legal advice service for free.

Are nannies that work for families where one or both parents are key workers required to work, or is this a choice?

The legislation requiring childcare providers to deliver childcare for critical workers and vulnerable children only applies to Ofsted/CIW registered providers and not to nannies (even if they are on the voluntary register).

Your starting point is to check your contract of employment and, if necessary, seek legal advice. Nannies who are PACEY members can access our legal advice service for free.

It may be the case you are employed by the family(ies) you support, so they can furlough you and apply for 80% of your salary to be refunded by government, until the Coronavirus pandemic is over. This will be only if they can no longer use your services due to Coronavirus. This is for your employer to decide but you could suggest this option, if they have said they do not need your services because they are now at home.

If you are self-employed and your family/ies no longer need your support due to Coronavirus, you may qualify for the financial support the Government has now announced.

As a Nanny, can my employer refuse to put me on Furlough leave?

It is for your employer to decide whether your role can be furloughed or not and they can only do this if they can demonstrate you cannot do your role because of the Coronavirus. You can see the government guidance on furlough here.

Whilst the Government’s advice is, where possible, to work from home, it is not possible in every person’s case. If you believe your role could be furloughed rather than made redundant, you should seek legal advice. PACEY members can access our legal advice service for free.

Wrap around care, after-school and holiday clubs

Can school clubs who offer before, after, and holiday care remain open?

Where possible, Ofsted would encourage childcare providers and schools to continue to look after critical workers’ children and vulnerable children throughout the Easter holidays.

Could a holiday club also offer full-day services during term time?

The clear advice from government is that children should stay at home, and registered childcare settings should close for all but critical workers children and vulnerable children. And of course government advice is that these children, where they can be cared for safely at home, should be.

You should only be considering such a change in discussion with your LA. It has responsibility for coordinating a response to the new arrangements and for ensuring there is sufficiency of places. Whilst this may involve working with childcare providers to provide places in alternative settings, the first priority for these children is to care for them in the familiar school and childcare environment they already attend.

What will happen through the Easter and summer holidays?

Where possible, Ofsted encourage childcare providers and schools to continue to look after critical workers’ children and vulnerable children throughout the Easter holidays.

Can childminders continue to provide wrap-around care (including school runs) for the vulnerable children and those of key workers?

We think you need to consider the risk. Government have stated that the first aim of the partial closure measures is to reduce the overall population of children and families moving around local areas as far as possible, in order to further reduce the number of social interactions and thus flatten the upward curve of the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.

The expectations that you do a number of pick-ups and potentially travel with other children in your care would not appear to support social distancing and minimising risk. Where possible, the parents need to consider using one childcare setting for all their care to minimise risk.

We have raised this question with DfE and will update this page as soon as possible.

Qualifications, training and support

My first aid certificate is due to expire next week - what should I do now?

As many first aid providers have had to suspend delivery of courses due to challenges presented by COVID-19, childcare providers are obviously concerned about the implications for their settings. Ofsted has confirmed that the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has advised that any first aid qualifications that are due to expire, or require requalification (e.g First Aid at Work), can be extended for three months. This is from 16 March 2020. You can read the full HSE statement here

Do I need to keep my child protection/Safeguarding training up-to-date?

The EYFS says ‘the lead practitioner must attend a child protection training course that enables them to identify, understand and respond appropriately to signs of possible abuse and neglect…..(3.5)’.

Whilst there is no time limit on when you need to review this, good practice (and some Local Authorities) say that this should be updated every three years. Whilst we rightly have focus on Covid-19 at the moment, it is important to remember that safeguarding is still a real and relevant part the job.

Our members can take the CACHE endorsed, PACEY Safeguarding course free as part of their member benefits, log in to MyPACEY to access now. Non-members can buy the same online training course for just £19.99.

I have an apprentice at my setting, can they complete their apprenticeship still?

This is a difficult time for apprentices, employers and providers of apprenticeship training, assessment and external assurance. The government is committed to supporting apprentices, and employers continue to build the skills capabilities the country needs now and in the future.

The Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) is responding by taking steps to ensure that, wherever possible, apprentices can continue and complete their apprenticeship, despite any break they need to take as a result of COVID-19, and to support providers during this challenging time.

Read the Covid-19 guidance for apprentices, employers, and training providers for more information, or watch the video from the Education & Skills Funding Agency.

Do you have training available that covers food safety and hygiene?

Yes. Our Level 2 food safety and hygiene for early years settings course is accredited by the Royal Society of Public Health (RSPH) and will give you the guidance you need.

If you provide food in your childcare setting it's important that you have a relevant qualification. Our online course could be done now, or when you are fully operational again. It is available to buy online for £32.99, and PACEY members can access the same course for just £20.00.

Will any CPD that I do during enforced closure be valid?

Yes. In fact, this could be the ideal time for you to take undertake some form of CPD or online training. 

PACEY's new platform, EY smart, offers free, accredited, online training for all practitioners - that can be done on any device, at any time. Our members can also access a host of additional CPD resources, including our magazine, factsheets, practice guides, and online courses, in MyPACEY

Other

My car is due an MOT, what do I do about that?

From 30 March 2020, MOT due dates for cars, motorcycles and light vans will be extended by 6 months. This is being done to help prevent the spread of coronavirus.

There’s separate guidance about what to do if your MOT due date is up to and including 29 March 2020.

You do not need to do anything to extend your vehicle’s MOT expiry date if it’s on or after 30 March 2020. However, you must keep your vehicle safe to drive.

Your vehicle will be automatically given a 6-month MOT exemption. This will extend your current MOT expiry date by 6 months.

I'm feeling very worried and concerned about the whole situation and having to stay at home is making me feel worse. What can I do?

Taking care of your mind as well as your body is really important while staying at home because of coronavirus (COVID-19).

You may feel bored, frustrated or lonely. You may also be low, worried or anxious, or concerned about your finances, your health or those close to you.

It's important to remember that it is OK to feel this way and that everyone reacts differently. Remember, this situation is temporary and, for most of us, these difficult feelings will pass. Staying at home may be difficult, but you are helping to protect yourself and others by doing it.

The tips and advice on the NHS Every Mind Matters page are things you can do now to help you keep on top of your mental wellbeing and cope with how you may feel while staying at home. Make sure you get further support if you feel you need it.

 

And finally...

Is all this really necessary?

We know this has come as shocking news to childcare providers and you are questioning whether this is an overreaction. The effort to stop COVID-19 will only work if everyone takes immediate steps to socially distance themselves where possible. The decision to close schools and childcare settings is part of this effort and, hard as it may be, it will help slow the spread of the virus, reduce the number of deaths and help the whole country to more rapidly return to normal. 

The early years and childcare sector is being asked to play a key part in the country’s ongoing response to coronavirus.

Liz Bayram, PACEY Chief Executive, adds; “I know that last week was horrendous for you and for every one of our members. It was a rollercoaster of uncertainty, ending with Government asking you and all other registered childcare providers to temporarily close their services other than to children of key workers or vulnerable children. All to help us reduce the spread of the Coronavirus. I know for some of you that temporary closure could end up being permanent; I know that alongside financial worries, you have also had to say rapid goodbyes to the children and families that only a few days ago you were caring for. So much has changed in such a short time.

"I just wanted you to know that every single member of staff and every volunteer at PACEY is standing firmly behind you; working tirelessly to ensure you have the support you need to get through this difficult time. We are a small charity but we make up for it with our determination and dedication to support all of our members as well as the wider sector.”