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Coronavirus: your nursery/childcare setting questions answered by the Early Years Alliance

(70 Posts)
RowanMumsnet (MNHQ) Fri 20-Mar-20 10:48:25


Understandably parents have had a few urgent questions about nursery/childcare setting closures, and in particular what they can do if they or their partner have suddenly lost their jobs or had their income reduced.

Our friends at the Early Years Alliance - an educational charity representing 14,000 early years membership organisations - has kindly offered to answer some of the questions we saw being asked most frequently.

Obviously they're under a lot of pressure at the moment, with many early years organisations facing huge financial challenges, so this isn't an ongoing Q&A - but let us know if you have any really burning further questions and we will see if we can get answers.

NOTE FROM MNHQ: this information is dated March 20 2020. We will do our best to keep it updated, but please let us know if you think we need to look again at any of the information here.


If nurseries close down because of Coronavirus/Covid19, do I have to pay full fees?

This will depend on the terms and conditions as set out in a parent's individual contract with their childcare provider. We would advise parents to check their contracts if they have them to hand, or to discuss with their provider directly. It's important to remember that when these contracts were drafted, a global pandemic that resulted in mass childcare closures, potentially for several weeks, would have been unthinkable so it may well be that providers are willing to offer some flexibility on the existing terms of their contracts. That said, we would stress that providers are facing incredible financial challenges themselves, and many will still be required to pay staff wages and rent during times of closure. The government has said that it is "asking providers to be reasonable and balanced in their dealings with parents".

If our household income is badly affected by Coronavirus and we're having difficulty paying fees, what should we do?

We know that these are worrying times for parents, particularly those worried that they will face difficulties paying fees as a result of the impact of Coronavirus. In such circumstances, we would recommend speaking to your provider in the first instance and making them aware of your concerns. Again, it may be that some providers are able to offer some levels of flexibility, though of course, many are facing significant financial struggles themselves. The Early Years Alliance is actively lobbying government to provide financial support for both families and providers during the coronavirus outbreak.

Do all nurseries have to close, other than to children of key workers?

While the government doesn't currently have the legal power to close childcare providers at the moment, the Coronavirus Bill which is going through Parliament will give it the ability to do so.

The Department for Education has been clear that all providers are expected to close to all but vulnerable children and children of key workers as of Monday 23 March. This applies to all registered childcare providers in England, regardless of whether or not they receive government funding. It is important to note that this does include childminders as well as nurseries and pre-schools.

It's worth remembering that the reason for these partial closures is to keep local communities as safe as possible during the coronavirus outbreak and to minimise the spread of the virus. For this reason, we would expect that providers will follow government guidance on this. Parent classed as key workers have also been asked by government to only use childcare if they are unable to look after their children at home.

Do you think nursery owners will act on a case-by-case basis or are they likely to act together as a sector on this?

​The majority of the childcare sector in England is made up of single-site, small providers and childminders, and so the likelihood is that providers will act on an individual basis, and make decisions based on what is most sensible and sustainable for their respective businesses.

Are nurseries insured for events like this?

This will depend on the insurance cover your nursery, pre-school or childminder has. However, many childcare providers are not covered for closure due to Coronavirus, and in particular, closure due to a government order (rather than an outbreak at the setting itself).

Bonkerz Fri 20-Mar-20 12:37:13

As a childminder I have closed for 4 weeks. I won't get paid during this period and still don't know if this will be recognised by the government. The rules are open to interpretation and we are seeing unqualified and unregistered people Offering childcare to lots of children and other mindees taking on double their numbers which seems ridiculous at a time we should be social distancing.
Schools have said they can only offer containment and not education for the foreseeable.

teddy50 Fri 20-Mar-20 13:44:01

Can I ask why nannies are allowed to keep operating, including nanny shares (where multiple families share one nanny), whilst childminders are not? And why does the ban apply only to English, rather than all UK, childminders?
We are parents of a toddler, and really struggling here. However, whilst our childminder has closed, we see a proliferation of nannies in the local area.

SamsMumsCateracts Fri 20-Mar-20 14:56:54

I'm a nursery practitioner, so a critical worker, but I am classed as vulnerable due to very severe, uncontrolled asthma. I also have a child with a long term condition, also on the vulnerable condition list. Where do I stand? Do I go to work, sending my children to school, for us to potentially catch the virus, which could lead to serious complications and more strain on the NHS or do we stay home? Obviously I want to do all I can to help, but I can't risk leaving my own children motherless. I feel very torn and conflicted. The key worker list is so long, that our numbers haven't really dropped at all at work.

Theresnoroomonmybroom Fri 20-Mar-20 15:49:13

Im going to be working additional hours (nhs) and will have a massive increase in nursery fees due to grandparent not being able to help anymore and due to the increase in hours. I want to do all I can to help but as a single parent I’m worried about paying the additional fees. Do you know if there will be any help for key workers with this. Thank you

moochpooch Fri 20-Mar-20 17:46:08

Can my childminder claim her early years funding? If so do I still have to pay the additional top up? What happens if their income is guaranteed as mentioned in today's briefing?

NoIDontWatchLoveIsland Fri 20-Mar-20 19:42:10

A big nursery chain with a branch near where I live has told parents it will continue to open for all children, effectively ignoring guidance. Will the government have any means to sanction?

Bonkerz Fri 20-Mar-20 19:58:42

Childminders income is not guaranteed. The gov have said we can apply for UC but I'm on tax credits and being given an extra £80 a month. I can't claim esa as cant actually get an appointment at the local hub and you can't apply on line! We are still waiting on how we will be helped.

deFrinkle Fri 20-Mar-20 20:28:59

@RowanMumsnet I'm really quite shocked that Mumsnet has portrayed this as a source of impartial information around whether fees need to still be paid. It's from an organisation representing service providers, of course they are going to say that parents still need to pay! In reality parents in this situation have the benefit of consumer rights legislation which doesn't permit T&Cs to contain unreasonable terms. Obviously we don't have any court cases yet on whether an ongoing requirement for parents to pay regardless of whether any service is actually being provided in a pandemic situation is an unreasonable term, but it's certainly not as simple as "you have to pay if the T&Cs say so".

CatAnnoyance Fri 20-Mar-20 20:36:47

Same as MoochPooch. We get the 30 hours funded childcare for our 3 year old but we're expected to pay £150 per month on top of that to top it up to what the childminder actually charges. She will still get the government funding but do we still need to pay the top up?!

moochpooch Fri 20-Mar-20 20:58:48

@CatAnnoyance I don't think it's fair to pay full fees personally

EYProvider Fri 20-Mar-20 21:16:24

I don’t think parents can be expected to pay here, especially given the uncertainty about the length of closure.

I know that the parents at my nursery wouldn’t pay anyway, but nor could I bring myself to charge them.

The government will pay 80% of staff wages as a retainer and the local authorities are still paying out the early years funding, so any nurseries that close are in a much better position tonight than they were a week ago.

Operating a nursery for the children of keyworkers in the current climate however is another matter entirely. I want my nursery to stay open - I want to provide a service for NHS workers, police, supermarket shelf stackers, etc. What’s more, the government has ordered me to keep the nursery open for the children of those essential workers.

HOWEVER - there are only 8 children who qualify for essential places at my nursery. If the staff continue to work, I can’t get any help with their wages because they are not ‘retained’ (and no doubt they would prefer to be on an 80% salary). But 8 kids will not bring in enough money to pay the staff, the rent and all the other overheads.

Yet still there is no information from the government on what they might do to help. I don’t think they have thought it through at all.

Fi1982 Fri 20-Mar-20 21:31:20

It is ridiculous that childminders are included in this ban, mine only has my daughter for almost half the week, and one other child the rest of the time, so two kids max. What’s the difference between her sitting at my childminder’s house or sitting at mine? Couldn’t there just be restrictions on where the childminder takes the kids, ie observes social distancing and doesn’t attend parks/soft play or gatherings?

I can understand for larger settings the risk of infection is high, but my daughter’s risk of infection sitting in a house all day with 1/2 people is very low. By adding childminders to this ban, the government have knee-jerk removed one of the few ways parents could get care for their children and carry on working. If you have any lobby power, please could you discuss this with someone at HQ and get this silly rule overturned.

BackyardChickens Fri 20-Mar-20 21:59:37

A big nursery chain with a branch near where I live has told parents it will continue to open for all children, effectively ignoring guidance. Will the government have any means to sanction?

I would like to know this too.

Many private day nurseries I know are sticking two fingers up at the advice and carrying on as normal.

Theyweretheworstoftimes Fri 20-Mar-20 22:14:28

I am a key worker with a 18month old. My husband is a key worker. Can you explain if we have to send our toddler to school? Or will they go to an age appropriate setting? Thank you

Laser17 Fri 20-Mar-20 22:51:14

My hubby is a key worker and I am not. I have work on Monday with no means of working from home yet.
The schools have rejected our applications for childcare under one parent being a key worker. They state both parents have to be key workers. Is this correct?

Ramdogs Fri 20-Mar-20 23:22:47

That's incorrect, only one parent is required to be a key worker. See 5.2 here

PippaPegg Sat 21-Mar-20 00:08:28

@EYProvider you keep a number of staff on to cover those 8 kids and pay them as normal. The rest of the staff you put on the government backed retainer. I would have thought.

PippaPegg Sat 21-Mar-20 00:09:40

Our nursery has said it will remain open for everyone next week while they seek clarification from the government. But sounds like they should be closed except for key workers now?

EYProvider Sat 21-Mar-20 00:54:07

@PippaPegg - You need 3 members of staff with 8 kids.

2 at all times, do an extra person to do nappy changes, cover lunch breaks, etc.

Then you need someone in the kitchen to prepare and cook the food. And a cleaner to work 2-2.5 hours at the end of each day.

My nursery is in London, so the rent is astronomical and the landlord unsympathetic. Add to that heating, lighting, etc., and there is no way of making it work.

You need at least 12 kids to be able to break even.

Monica87 Sat 21-Mar-20 08:49:42

In Scotland both parents need to be key workers to qualify for the key worker provision sad

insancerre Sat 21-Mar-20 08:57:49

My manager has decided that practically every parent is a key worker so us opening for everyone next week
It seems they have looked at the list as a means of entitlement rather than looking at need, so the child of a car mechanic will be coming in even though mum is at home and doesn’t work
I feel like it’s profit over people and my health is being put at risk because the director doesn’t want to upset the customer
This can’t be allowed to continue, there must be some way of checking that settings are only providing care to enable critical workers to go to work

CatAnnoyance Sat 21-Mar-20 10:04:43

I forgot to add, my childminder is passive-aggressively telling us that unless we continue to pay the fees then they can't hold a place for us! Is that right?

stardance Sat 21-Mar-20 11:25:51

*My manager has decided that practically every parent is a key worker so us opening for everyone next week
It seems they have looked at the list as a means of entitlement rather than looking at need, so the child of a car mechanic will be coming in even though mum is at home and doesn’t work
I feel like it’s profit over people and my health is being put at risk because the director doesn’t want to upset the customer
This can’t be allowed to continue, there must be some way of checking that settings are only providing care to enable* *critical workers to go to work
We're in a similar situation. Only a small handful of families don't qualify. We're going to be caring for children while both parents are working from home, or where one parent is on maternity leave or doesn't work. Some parents haven't specified their job role, they've just told us that they qualify. Others have 'modified' their job title to make it part of the list.

insancerre Sat 21-Mar-20 11:38:17

It’s ridiculous, it really is

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