Coronavirus: LEYF opens 25 emergency childcare hubs across London

The London Early Years Foundation (LEYF) has opened 25 of its nurseries to provide emergency care for the children of frontline workers during the coronavirus outbreak.

June O'Sullivan, chief executive of LEYF, has called on the government for more support. Picture: Adobe Stock
June O'Sullivan, chief executive of LEYF, has called on the government for more support. Picture: Adobe Stock

LEYF, which operates 39 nurseries across the capital, has shared its plan to operate as many settings as possible for the children of so-called key workers, including NHS staff, social workers and police officers, and vulnerable children.

The organisation said it has created a system to “identify which parents are essential workers and which children are the most vulnerable”. 

“Staff considered to be low risk have been aligned on a rota scheme across 25 of its nurseries – with strict measures to enforce social distancing and mitigate the risk of potential cross infections,” LEYF said.

“Whilst 14 nurseries will close today against a set of health and safety criteria, the remaining 25 will form hubs across London to ensure all children entitled to a nursery place can have one. Tighter hygiene practices are also being instigated as priority,” the organisation added.

Early years leaders have expressed concerns over the financial impact on providers amid closures across the UK.

June O’Sullivan, chief executive of LEYF has called for early years staff to be fully supported by the government, which announced last week that it will pay 80 per cent of salary for staff who are kept on by their employer, covering wages of up to £2,500 a month. 

“It’s imperative that the government never forgets the efforts we will be making to support the NHS and keep key workers fully operational in order to serve the country during a time of crisis,” O’Sullivan said.

“Who would have anticipated that a virus we had never heard of could potentially be the last straw to the survival of the early years sector already weakened by years of underfunding? 

“All the clichés about leading in a crisis are now being tested as we step up and look at what we can do to balance keeping our staff safe, the country functioning and our business going.”

The emergency childcare settings open as the charity Action for Children revealed many of the UK’s most vulnerable families fear “going under” as a result of the pandemic.