Emergency recovery package needed for early years sector, says the Children's Commissioner for England

Kathy Oxtoby
Wednesday, September 30, 2020

The latest report from the Children's Commissioner for England calls for an early years providers emergency recovery package, including additional catch up funding, to allow them to stay open.

The Children's Commissioner is calling for a Family Guarantee for under-fives.
The Children's Commissioner is calling for a Family Guarantee for under-fives.

Providing an emergency recovery package for early years providers to allow them to stay open, including additional catch up funding, is a key recommendation of a new report from the Children’s Commissioner for England, Anne Longfield. [29 September 2020.]

Ms Longfield recommends across-government strategy for early years, including a Family Guarantee for under-fives and their families, with joined up support based around a national infrastructure of Children and Family Hubs.

 Anne Longfield

Measures towards a long term recovery for the sector also include resources being provided ‘to allow missed health contacts and other outreach from early years services to take place, and to fully restore health visiting services’, Ms Longfield said.

Greater information sharing between agencies

In the event of further lockdowns, the report said:

  • Guidance should make clear that babies and young children should be prioritised for visits in person from professionals such as social workers and provide adequate PPE for these to take place;
  • Local Authorities should monitor in real time the levels of referrals to children’s social care, in order to identify levels of unidentified need;
  • Greater information sharing between agencies, supported by central government, should be enabled to ensure proactive outreach to vulnerable families;
  • In any future lockdown, early years education settings and health services should be kept open and visits should continue wherever possible.

Entitled Childhood in the time of Covid the report ‘aims to set out, in one place, the key ways in which children’s lives have been impacted as a result of the Covid-19 crisis – the nation’s biggest test since the Second World War.

‘In doing so, it provides a roadmap for what must be done to enable children to recover from their experiences, and how their needs must be put first in the event of further lockdowns,’ Ms Longfield said.

The report follows Best Beginnings, published this July, which mapped the provision of early years services for children across England, and highlighted a system that was disjointed and often failed to target support for children who need it most.

Purnima Tanuku, chief executive of National Day Nurseries Association (NDNA), said the Government ‘must action the recommendations that the Children’s Commissioner makes to ensure children do not suffer any further as a result of this pandemic. Children must be their number one priority.

‘This includes making sure that all early years settings stay open and in order to do that, they are given an emergency recovery package.’

Ms Tanuku said many early years providers stayed open throughout lockdown despite making a loss, in order to provide emergency childcare for frontline workers.

‘They were the fourth emergency service and this must be recognised. Childcare businesses must be given catch up funding while their income is low and their business costs are higher in order to provide a safe environment.

‘The Government must also carry out a review into fair funding rates to make sure that providers can at least cover their costs going forward.’

She added: ‘All early years settings must be open to provide continuity of care which is so important for young children’s wellbeing and good development.

‘But in order to stay open, it’s vital that all early years workers – including those in private and voluntary nurseries –A cros have priority access to testing. Nurseries should not be forced to close while they are waiting for staff to be tested. They should receive the same support which is offered to schools and maintained settings.’

Read the full report here

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