Dear Councillors and MP’s,
I am writing to you as Claire Dove, CEO of Blackburne House Nursery which provides childcare places to families in Liverpool City Centre and the surrounding areas. We run a 36 place Nursery in Liverpool 8 and this includes 64 children on roll, of which 33 are funded places through LCC.
I am urgently asking for your help in addressing real concerns I have about the impact of new government guidance on the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS), which could lead to widespread job losses in nurseries like ours across the country. Late on Friday the Government published guidance on the CJRS which severely limits the eligibility of my staff to access the job retention scheme and without an urgent review of this decision I am deeply worried that we will have to lay-off members of my team.
I am urgently asking for your help in addressing real concerns I have about the impact of new government guidance on the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS), which could lead to widespread job losses in nurseries like ours across the country. Late on Friday, the Government published guidance on the CJRS which severely limits the eligibility of my staff to access the job retention scheme and without an urgent review of this decision I am deeply worried that we will have to lay-off members of my team.
We have had to close our Nursery during lockdown as none of our parents and carers are key workers. The closure of our Nursery means a significant loss in income, we will not be charging parents for fees whilst closed from 23rd March and we will still incur fixed costs and significant financial hardship, even whilst accessing the general financial support available which is extremely limited in this sector which is already underfunded.
The Government had previously announced that it will continue to pay local authorities the money for the funded childcare hours – where families receive up to 30 hours of early education and childcare for their three and four-year-olds as well as some two-year-olds. At the same time, we were told that we could furlough staff under the CJRS aimed to protect jobs. This position meant we took the decision to furlough all of our 15 nursery staff and we committed to paying them 100% of salaries. We did this as many of the staff are on lower wages and their families need our support as many have been impacted negatively through this pandemic.
Nurseries have been excluded from accessing other grants designed to help businesses through this crisis like the £10,000 grant for small businesses as we are too large while the £25,000 grants are expressly just for retail, hospitality and leisure businesses. The continued early years funding has been presented as the support to early years businesses to get through this crisis.
The Government has referred to insurance cover but the vast majority of insurance is not covering businesses for loss of income caused by COVID-19 despite the declaration of it as a notifiable disease. I know that the National Day Nurseries Association has raised concerns with the Government about insurance cover already. We have some cover under denial of access clauses and have started the process of making a claim, however this could take weeks or months to process and there isn’t a guarantee that the full cover will be paid out.
The new policy, which was announced without warning just days before the CJRS opens has left us in a position where we would have to recall up to a third of our staff from furlough and pay them 100% of their salaries despite their being no work for them and the income not being there to pay them. If this position continues, I fear we will not be able to pay them or have to lay them off, or worst case that our nursery may go out of business and I believe this will be repeated in nurseries across the country.
Government underfunding has led to an increase in the rate of nurseries going out of business over the last two years. The Department of Education’s own statistics shows that the majority of private and voluntary providers like mine are either running at a loss or just breaking even. This uncertain future means that loans which will have to be repaid are not a viable option. We are unable to access the publicised Business Interruption Loans through our Highstreet bank as we have unsecured assets, and the social investment finance we will have access to is at a significantly higher APR.
If this scheme goes ahead with the exclusions outlined on Friday night and with no additional financial support available to our nursery, we could see local families lose childcare in the long term. Nurseries like ours are vital to the wider economy as we start to go back to business as usual.
Even if we remain in business, if we lose staff it will take time to replace them in the future as the early years was already facing a workforce crisis.
Please ask the Government to urgently reverse this decision and consider the impact it will have on the ability of providers to deliver the emergency childcare places that are needed now and the long-term sufficiency of places for children that will be needed in the future.
Claire Dove OBE DL
Please support by signing the petition "Boris Johnson: 80% Furloughed pay for all childcare workers as the government promised"