A month in lockdown: Weighing the impact

Check out this timeline of the key events and developments which have impacted the sector so far, during the coronavirus pandemic.

24 March
Schools and nurseries close except for the children of key workers, and vulnerable children as defined by the Government.

Providers begin to implement their plans for closures, factoring in the Government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme which covers 80 per cent of the salaries of retained workers, up to £2,500 a month – along with deferred VAT payments for businesses for the next quarter, and an extension of the coronavirus business interruption loan scheme to be interest free for 12 months (up from six months).

It is understood from Government guidance that funding for the ‘free entitlement’ will continue.

25 March
The Department for Education (Df E), together with Public Health England (PHE) publishes new guidance on implementing social distancing in education and childcare settings.

26 March
The Government’s Coronavirus Bill gains royal assent. Under the emergency legislation, the education secretary has the power to force childcare settings to close or stay open.

The majority of nursery owners/managers and childminders now make the decision to close to vulnerable children and those of key workers because they either don’t have enough staff, due to them being classed as ‘vulnerable’ to Coronavirus (COVID-19), ‘high-risk’ or in self-isolation, or because they feel that the risk of catching the virus is too great for their employees.

27 March
Following high profile campaigning by sector organisations including PACEY and the Early Years Alliance, Childminders are now eligible for the Government scheme extending financial support to the self-employed.

31 March 
The Scottish Parliament revokes the statutory duty to expand funded hours allowing local authorities to focus on responding to the coronavirus pandemic.

2 April 
The Government urges childcare settings and schools to continue to look after critical workers’ children and vulnerable children throughout the Easter holidays’ and for settings to contact their local council, responsible for coordinating childcare provision locally.

New guidance says that nursery workers who have been put on temporary leave by their employer during the coronavirus crisis can be furloughed more than once.

6 April
Nottinghamshire County Council funds PVI early years settings with an extra £300,000 during the Easter holidays, to help them stay open for critical workers and vulnerable children.

Wales puts 30 hour childcare on hold to pay for key worker children.

7 April
A petition to raise child benefit by £10 a week gathers momentum.

9 April
Around a half of nurseries in the UK stay open for children of key workers and vulnerable children, according to a survey by the National Day Nurseries Association.

Government announces £750m funding to be shared by charities, including those working on the frontline of the coronavirus outbreak, but is warned this may not be enough to stop some from closing.

15 April
Adoptive families are offered online counselling and couples therapy as part of an £8m scheme from the Government to support them during the coronavirus pandemic.

Renewed call for early years curriculum to be extended up to seven.

16 April
More than 2,500 people sign an open letter to schools minister Nick Gibb, calling for the Government to 'urgently' reconsider plans to bring in the Reception Baseline in September.

The immediate and lasting impact of the coronavirus on the early years sector begins to be tracked in real time by data specialist Ceeda.

Government guidance says that early years settings will no longer be required to meet the learning and development requirements of the EYFS and can relax qualifications relating to staff: child ratios during the coronavirus outbreak.

17 April
The Government backtracks on the amount of financial support that early years providers can access from the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (furloughing) in conjunction with free entitlement funding, in a move described as ‘a kick in the eeth’.

20 April
Thousands sign petition against the Government’s latest guidance which effectively cuts furlough funding for providers.

21 April
Furlough claims in line with the Government’s latest guidance could result in the loss of £170m in financial support from March to June 2020 for the sector, equating to the loss of 31,900 jobs according to data specialist Ceeda.

22 April
Around 65,000 children are currently attending early years settings, according to Department for Education research ­– about four per cent of the number who usually attend in term time.

Councils are encouraged to transfer early entitlement funding between early years settings if it helps them to create enough childcare places for key worker children ­– of little reassurance for most providers who are now struggling with complex calculations to identify the proportion of their salary staffed that can be furloughed.

Children’s Minister Vicky Ford defends the Government’s position on furloughing saying  ‘There has never been a change in guidance. The treasury guidance makes it enormously clear [that organisations receiving public funding to pay staff shouldn’t also be able to use furlough for them]. That is what we added to our guidance as extra clarification. I wish I could have got that clarification out faster.’

23 April
Action for Children survey reveals that many families are now on the breadline.

24 April
A survey of more than 2,000 nurseries and childminders, carried out by the website Childcare.co.uk, finds that half (51 per cent) are likely to re-open after lockdown, while a third (34 per cent) remain undecided.








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