To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what assessment his Department has made of the effect of (a) the covid-19 restrictions announced on 22 September 2020 and (b) further local lockdowns on demand for childcare places.
29 September 2020
The government understands the importance of childcare, which is why we are planning to spend over £3.6 billion on our free early education entitlements in 2020-21. We continue to work closely with both local authorities and the early years sector organisations to monitor the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak on the sector.
The COVID-19 outbreak is a testing and disruptive time for all parts of society and the economy, including the early years sector. We recognise the risk to providers’ financial viability caused by changing levels of parental demand.
We are providing extra stability and reassurance to nurseries and childminders that are open by ‘block-buying’ childcare places for the rest of this year at the level we would have funded before the COVID-19 outbreak in accordance with specific guidance, regardless of how many children are attending.
Additionally, nurseries, childminders and pre-schools can claim for various other forms of business support, including the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and Self Employment Income Support Scheme for the proportion of their staff costs that would not normally be covered by government funding.
To provide additional support to firms to keep employees as demand returns, my right hon. Friend, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, introduced the Job Retention Bonus, a one-off payment of £1,000 to employers for each employee who was ever furloughed, has been continuously employed until 31 January 2021 and is still employed by the same employer as of 31 January 2021.
Additionally, on 24 September, my right hon. Friend, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, outlined additional government support within the Winter Economy Plan, to provide certainty to businesses and workers impacted by COVID-19 across the UK.
Around £60 million per year of supplementary funding is also being provided to local authorities, to enable them to protect maintained nursery schools’ funding. On 24 August, we announced that we will continue to provide this for the whole of the 2020-21 academic year.