Children: Coronavirus

Department for Education written question – answered on 17th November 2020.

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Photo of Afzal Khan Afzal Khan Shadow Deputy Leader of the House of Commons

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, if he will provide fiscal support for parents with childcare cost liabilities in the event that a family is required to self-isolate as a result of their child awaiting a covid-19 test.

Photo of Vicky Ford Vicky Ford The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education

We want parents to have access to a range of affordable childcare, giving them increased flexibility in their working hours and helping children thrive in the crucial early years. This is why the department is planning to spend more than £3.6 billion to support our early education entitlements in 2020-21.

We want to provide security to nurseries and childminders who are open for the children who need them. That is why on 20 July we announced our commitment to continue paying local authorities for the childcare places they usually fund, for the autumn term. This means that even if providers are open but caring for fewer children, as a result of low demand from parents or due to public health reasons, they can continue to be funded for the autumn term at broadly the levels they would have expected to see in the 2020 autumn term had there been no coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. This gives another term of secure income to nurseries and childminders who are open for the children who need them.

Whilst we do not provide guidance on how providers operate their private businesses, including charges for provision over and above a child’s free hours, we urge all childcare providers to be reasonable and balanced in their dealings with parents, given the great uncertainty they will be facing too.

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has established a COVID-19 Taskforce to identify, monitor and respond to competition and consumer problems arising from COVID-19 and the measures taken to contain it. People and businesses who have seen or experienced businesses behaving unfairly during the COVID-19 outbreak can report it to the CMA by using their dedicated online form. Where there is evidence that businesses have breached competition or consumer protection law, the CMA will take enforcement action if warranted. As a result of alleged unfair practices caused by COVID-19 disruptions, the CMA has published an open letter to the early years sector (nurseries and childcare providers). This can be found at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/cma-open-letter-to-the-early-years-sector.

If asked to self-isolate by NHS Test and Trace and on a low income, parents who are unable to work from home and will lose income as a result may be entitled to a payment of £500 from their local authority under the Test and Trace Support Payment scheme. For more information, please see: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/test-and-trace-support-payment-scheme-claiming-financial-support/claiming-financial-support-under-the-test-and-trace-support-payment-scheme.

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