Government u-turn “devastating” for Early Years

Posted 23rd April, 2020
Penny Hustwick, director of the four Ofsted Outstanding nursery settings in Telford.

Press release: Government u-turn “devastating” for Early Years, Shropshire nursery owner says.

A Government u-turn which saw access to the furlough scheme massively reduced for the private childcare sector has left nursery owners devastated and fearing for their future.


New Government guidance was released stating that a private childcare provider should only furlough employees if they meet specific conditions – the conditions mean that those nursery providers who remained open for key worker children as instructed by the Government could now be at risk of closure due to a financial crisis.


Penny Hustwick, director of four Ofsted Outstanding day nurseries in Telford said the shock announcement had left the Early Years industry reeling and fearing for their future.


Mrs Hustwick, who owns ABC Day Nurseries at Lightmoor, Hadley, Hollinswood and Hoo at Preston-upon-the-Weald-Moors had kept all four settings open for children of key workers as instructed by the Government but on a reduced staff basis based on the number of key worker children needing the “lifeline” childcare.


The new guidance came weeks after Prime Minister Boris Johnson said “Stand by your workers and we’ll stand by you” and just three days before the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme portal went live.


Mrs Hustwick, who set up her first nursery nearly 30 years ago and is a leading example of high quality childcare in Telford with her multiple Ofsted Outstanding ratings, said: “This announcement has left private nursery owners in shock and disbelief – I am furious.


“We were told we needed to remain open for key worker children which as the owner of ABC I did. Some providers ignored the Government advice and closed their doors to all but I knew we were vital to the key worker parents and therefore vital to them to enable them to continue in their roles – from nurses to doctors, to carers and retail.


“We have been referred to as the fourth emergency service, a lifeline to those key workers on the front line and now we receive this news.


“We have kept the doors to all four nurseries with a handful of children at each as it has been vital for those children to continue attending a familiar environment with familiar staff and for the parents to be able to drop at the same place as they did before which is usually on their way to work.


“The Early Years sector is a massively underfunded sector. The funding we get per child does not and cannot cover the actual cost of staffing, food and resources for that child to have the care they need.


“This new guidance is now taking into account that funding; talks about the services not being required – which we are required as the Government told us we are; along with duplicate funding – in a sector where funding is at the heart of the industry.


“We were relying on the combination of the funding and the furlough scheme to just about pull through this time. We want to be able to re-open our doors to all when this is over but the Government’s announcement has now put that in doubt for so many private childcare providers.


“They dangled a carrot and snatched it away at the last moment. It is a huge blow to the industry but to private owners like myself who have been working around the clock to ensure the key worker children have a safe environment to come to whilst their parents work.”


The new guidance confirms that a private provider should only furlough employees, and seek support through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, if they meet the following conditions: 

  • The employee works in an area of business where services are temporarily not required and where their salary is not covered by public funding; 
  • The employee would otherwise be made redundant or laid off; 
  • The employee is not involved in delivering provision that has already been funded (free entitlement funding); 
  • (where appropriate) The employee is not required to deliver provision for a child of a critical worker and/or vulnerable child; AND
  • The grant from the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme would not be duplicative to other public grants received and would not lead to financial reserves being created. 


Purnima Tanuku OBE, Chief Executive of the National Day Nurseries Association (NDNA), said chiefs would be calling for an urgent meeting with the Department of Education today (Monday) to challenge them on their decision and the impact this will have on the early years sector.


She said: “The Government does not appear to have early years on their agenda, which is appalling at a time when early years providers have stepped up to deliver the care that’s desperately needed for critical workers. 


“They are themselves the fourth emergency service: key workers caring for key workers. This is a total disregard for the fantastic work early years providers are doing, risking their own safety every day to keep the country going. The Government does not appear to acknowledge or recognise this.


“NDNA has been lobbying government departments hard for the past few weeks for further financial support and more clarity on these two schemes. This will have a detrimental effect on the sector and will lead to many staff being made redundant and many more nurseries being forced to close, both now and into the future. This will cause a huge disruption to children and families when the lockdown is relaxed.£


The NDNA said local authorities under spent early years funding by £63.5 million in 2018-19 and reported contingencies of £32 million in 2018-19 and £26 million in 2019-20.