Coronavirus: Government urged to support childminders

Early Years leaders have called on the government to step up support for tens of thousands of childminders at risk of permanent closure due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Tens of thousands of childminder jobs are at risk. Picture: Adobe Stock
Tens of thousands of childminder jobs are at risk. Picture: Adobe Stock

The Professional Association of Childcare and Early Years (Pacey) is calling on the government to offer urgent help to 41,000 self-employed registered childminders in England and Wales who leaders say do not qualify for most financial support for businesses announced by the Chancellor amid the national crisis.

A further 28,000 childcare providers working from non-domestic premises may be eligible for government business support, however, “their business doesn’t have the cashflow to keep them afloat until government support is accessible,” Pacey says.

Childminder Jane Comeau closed her doors on Monday following the government’s announcement that all schools, nurseries and childcare provisions would shut until further notice except to the children of key workers and vulnerable children. 

She said: “I am devastated, I have no key worker children at my setting, so I have been forced to close. Some of the children I care for I will never see again, and to add to the emotional impact, the financial implications are huge. 

“My partner is working, so I am not entitled to any financial support, not even Universal Credit. At my lowest points, I worry that my career could be over, if my current families don’t return for whatever reason, I am not sure I would have the energy to build up my business again and I fear this may be the same for many others.”

Pacey has also launched a survey to collect the views of childcare providers across England and Wales to demonstrate the impact of closures to government.

Liz Bayram, Pacey chief executive said: “We know government advice to close has been necessary to help slow the spread of coronavirus. 

“Of upmost urgency right now is support for the 41,000 registered childminders in England and Wales. Most do not qualify for the current government support available to business. They are self-employed sole traders; most do not deliver early education places so will not continue to receive that funding. Most are on low incomes, many are single parents and, as of today, can only look to the benefit system for support.

“More has to be done 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 are all able to return to our normal working lives.”

The Early Years Alliance (EYA) is also calling for the government to extend measures introduced to protect businesses to cover those who are self-employed as latest government figures show that as of 31 December 2019, the number of registered childcare providers in England and Wales has fallen by 22 per cent since August 2015.

Neil Leitch, chief executive of the EYA, said: “These figures show why it’s so vital that the government takes urgent action to support self-employed childminders during this crisis. 

“For years now, we have seen a slow but steady decline in the number of childminders operating in the sector. With so many heavily reliant on parent fees for their income - which will fall dramatically following the government instruction to all childcare providers to close to all but key workers and vulnerable children - without additional financial support, many will not be able to survive this difficult period.”