Nurseries and other early years providers have been able to welcome back all children since the summer. Under the new local tier system, childcare settings will remain open under all levels of local restriction as the default position. Ministers have been explicit that any restrictions on education, including childcare, would only be as a last resort and may only be initiated following a ministerial decision.
As of June 2020, childminders can look after children of all ages, in line with their current Ofsted registration, and within usual limits on the number of children they can care for.
Early years settings have been asked to implement a range of protective measures including increased cleaning, reducing ‘pinch points’ (such as parents dropping children off at the start and end of day), and utilising outdoor space.
Priority groups, including vulnerable children and children of critical workers who were eligible to attend throughout school closures, will continue to be able to attend early years settings as they are currently.
Closures will have had a big impact on early years providers so the Government acted swiftly to support them. A range of support has been made available, including 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. The Secretary of State for Education has also confirmed that the Department for Education will continue to fully fund local authorities for free childcare entitlements. Further details on the support available for childcare providers can be found here - https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-early-years-and-childcare-closures/coronavirus-covid-19-early-years-and-childcare-closures#funding
Childminders have been able to access the Self-employment Income Support Scheme. For the self-employed, including childminders, the minimum income floor will also be temporarily relaxed, meaning Universal Credit can be accessed at a rate to match statutory sick pay.
Early years providers have also been able to access the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS). Most providers receive income from private ‘parent paid’ hours and government early entitlement funding. Providers have been able to use the CJRS to cover up to the proportion of their pay bill which could be considered to have come from their private income.
For example, if a provider’s average monthly income is 40 per cent from early entitlement funding and 60 per cent from other income, the provider could claim CJRS support for up to 60 per cent of their pay bill. This would be done by furloughing staff whose usual salary/combined salaries come to no greater than 60 per cent of the provider’s total pay bill.
Ministers have confirmed that childcare will be funded at the level it otherwise would have been before the COVID-19 outbreak until the end of the year. This will give nurseries and childminders another term of secure income, regardless of whether fewer children are attending. Ministers continue to work with the sector to understand how early years providers can best be supported to ensure that safe, appropriate and affordable childcare is available for all families who need it.