The UK scheme to pay wages of workers on leave due to coronavirus will now be extended to October.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak confirmed that employees will continue to receive 80 per cent of their monthly wages up to £2,500 but said the Government will ask companies to ‘start sharing’ the cost of the scheme from August.
Employers currently using the scheme are expected to start bringing furloughed employees back part-time.
However, sector organisations say that the Government's refusal to reverse its decision to limit how much support childcare providers can access via the Job Retention Scheme has already had a hugely damaging impact. Just three days before applications for the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme opened on 20 April, severe limitations were placed on access to the furlough scheme for early years settings which also receive local authority funding to provide free childcare.
This went against earlier guidance published on 24 March which explicitly stated that ‘providers can access this scheme while continuing to be paid the early entitlements funding via local authorities’.
- Providers asked by Government to welcome all children back from 1 June
- Restrictions on providers' access to Job Protection Scheme must be lifted
Purnima Tanuku , chief executive of National Day Nurseries Association (NDNA), said that the announcement will come as a great relief to the many dedicated professionals in the early years.
Since the scheme was announced, NDNA has written to the Chancellor and had several meetings with Treasury officials, calling for more flexibility and continued financial support to ensure that childcare staff could be supported while the needs of children in settings could still be met.
‘Many nurseries, who were looking at June as the end of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, will have been nervous about how they would be able to keep staff on with far fewer children attending,’ said Ms Tanuku.
‘We have just seen the government announce plans to get children returning to early years settings from the beginning of June in England, as long as it is safe to do so. However, we know that safety measures, shielding and reduced demand may mean not all staff will be able to return from day one. The extension of the scheme and the ability to bring staff back part-time will help childcare providers respond to increasing, but uncertain demand for childcare places. It will also mean that those staff who need to remain shielded, will be able to do this.
At the Early Years Alliance, chief executive Neil Leitch said: ‘With the initial demand for childcare places expected to be significantly reduced, and still no clarity from the government on whether existing support schemes for the sector will continue during this time, the outlook for many nurseries, pre-schools and childminders across England is very uncertain.'
‘It is absolutely vital, therefore, that the Government confirms exactly what funding will be made available to providers to ensure they are able to stay afloat during this transitional period.
‘There are many significant financial challenges facing the childcare sector at the moment and the extension of the furlough scheme – while helpful – is, by itself, not the solution.’