Children: Day Care

Department for Education written question – answered on 13th August 2020.

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Photo of Lord Beecham Lord Beecham Labour

To ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the availability of childcare provision; and what steps they propose to take to mitigate that impact on service providers and those dependent on such provision.

Photo of Baroness Berridge Baroness Berridge Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for International Trade) (Minister for Women), The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education

In order to control the spread of COVID-19, early years settings were asked to only open for children of critical workers and vulnerable children from 20 March. An Ipsos MORI survey showed that three-quarters of critical workers with young children could access childcare during the coronavirus lockdown. The survey is available at:

https://www.ipsos.com/ipsos-mori/en-uk/parents-0-4-year-olds-and-childcare-1st-june-2020.

To ensure provision was available for all who needed it, local authorities have been able to redistribute free early years entitlement funding in exceptional cases to ensure childcare places are available for vulnerable and critical worker children.

Early years providers have been able to open to all children from 1 June. The latest attendance data shows that on 30 July, an estimated 285,000 children were attending an early years setting. The latest data, published on 4 August, is available at:

https://explore-education-statistics.service.gov.uk/find-statistics/attendance-in-education-and-early-years-settings-during-the-coronavirus-covid-19-outbreak/2020-week-31.

Since 20 July, early years settings have been able to return to their normal group sizes, paving the way for more children to transition back to their early education and supporting parents to return to work.

On 20 July, we announced our commitment to continue paying local authorities for the childcare places they usually fund throughout the autumn term. This means that even if providers are open but caring for fewer children, they can continue to be funded as if the COVID-19 outbreak were not happening.

Local authorities should also continue to fund providers which have been advised to close, or left with no option but to close, for public health reasons. That gives another term of secure income to nurseries and childminders who are open for the children who need them. Until the start of the 2020 autumn term, it remains the case that free early years entitlement funding can be used differently and redistributed in exceptional cases to ensure childcare places are available for vulnerable and critical worker children.

The childcare sector has also been able to access a wider package of government support in the form of a business rates holiday, business interruption loans and the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme. Full details of the support available is available at:

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-early-years-and-childcare-closures/coronavirus-covid-19-early-years-and-childcare-closures#funding.

For school-aged children, holiday clubs and other out-of-school settings have been able to open since 4 July, helping parents to meet their childcare needs during the school summer holidays.

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