Nurseries being closed in response to the Covid-19 pandemic is “absolutely devastating news” that will see early years providers forced to shut down, an industry body has claimed.
The chief executive of National Day Nurseries Association (NDNA) has demanded the Government support the nursery sector in the same way other businesses are being supported.
It came after Education Secretary Gavin Williamson announced schools and early years providers across England would close, with similar measures also announced in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland on Wednesday.
Education Secretary Gavin Williamson announced in the Commons that all nurseries in England will close from Monday. This is shocking news. How can the private nursery sector remain sustainable in the face of mass closures and expensive overheads? https://t.co/rvZqJU1jBx
— NDNA (@NDNAtalk) March 18, 2020
Chief executive Purnima Tanuku said: “This is absolutely devastating news. I have just expressed my total shock and disappointment to the minister, who had previously assured us they would keep nurseries open as long as possible.
“How can the private nursery sector remain sustainable in the face of mass closures and expensive overheads?
“We must have reassurance from government that as well as continuing to pay the early years entitlement funding, they will support the sector in the same way they have promised for other sectors badly affected by this catastrophe.
“Nurseries will lose income from parents but will still have staff to pay and rental or mortgage costs.”
Chancellor Rishi Sunak said on Twitter that nurseries will be eligible for a business rates holiday from April 1, which was welcomed by the NDNA.
Ms Tanuku added that it was “vital” parents can access high quality care once they return to work, and that nursery businesses and their staff are in a position to deliver this.
To support nurseries at this time, we have decided that they will also be eligible for a business rates holiday for one year from 1 April.
— Rishi Sunak (@RishiSunak) March 18, 2020
She added: “We also need to know how some nurseries, who care for children of key workers and for vulnerable children, can continue to remain open with few children.
“I will be pressing the Government on all these issues at the early years sector Covid-19 response meeting tomorrow.”
According to the Professional Association for Childcare and Early Years, the closure of early years educational settings in England includes childminders.
Chief executive Liz Bayram said more information on the closures is due to be published on Thursday, while acknowledging that childcare providers will be “extremely worried” about surviving temporary closures.
In a statement, she said: “The decision to close schools in England and Wales and, in England only, childcare settings too will not have been made lightly and is part of the UK’s on-going effort to defeat this terrible virus.
“We know our members and other childcare providers will be extremely worried about how they can survive if they are temporarily closed due to Covid-19 or forced to close down for all but vulnerable children or children of key workers.
“The support already announced by government will help but far more is needed to ensure childcare providers can survive this period of closure and rebuild the service so many families rely on to balance work and home, once we have beaten Covid-19.”
She added that registered childcare and play settings in Wales are due to remain open at this time.
Elaine Pitteway, executive director of Childminding UK, told the PA news agency that childminders were already asking the charity questions about payment.
She said: “Some insurance companies do cover childminders for a loss of earnings, but in this case, some are saying that although you would normally be covered for a notifiable disease, this particular virus isn’t yet on the list of insurer’s notifiable diseases.
“So therefore they won’t be paying them for a loss of earnings.
“At the moment, there doesn’t seem to be any insurance cover, and there’s certainly no government support or directive about loss of earnings.”
She also raised concerns about children’s care when schools are closed, as childminders work to a ratio – with most unable to take any more than six children at a time.
Ms Pitteway added: “Where would those children go? And I think this is going to be a real problem, because it means parents will just have to take time off, and then what will their employer do?
“Will they have to take all their leave, leaving families with no leeway or holiday to take later in the year? There’s huge repercussions.”