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20 March 2020 | Childcare & Education

Government provides further COVID-19 guidance to childcare providers

Late yesterday (19th March) the Government issued further guidance for parents, schools, nurseries and independent schools regarding their initial announcement on Wednesday (17th March) that schools would close from Friday to further limit the spread of COVID-19.

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  • Schools (including independent schools and boarding schools), colleges, nurseries, childminders and other registered childcare settings are being asked to continue to provide care for a limited number of children – children who are vulnerable and children whose parents are critical to the Covid-19 response and cannot be safely cared for at home.
  • Vulnerable children include children who are supported by social care, those with safeguarding and welfare needs, including child in need plans, on child protection plans, ‘looked after’ children, young carers, disabled children and those with education, health and care (EHC) plans.
  • Parents whose work is critical to the COVID-19 response include those who work in health and social care and in other key sectors outlined below. Many parents working in these sectors may be able to ensure their child is kept at home. And every child who can be safely cared for at home should be.
  • Residential special schools, boarding schools and special settings continue to care for children wherever possible.

Critical sectors include:

Health and social care: This includes but is not limited to doctors, nurses, midwives, paramedics, social workers, care workers, and other frontline health and social care staff including volunteers; the support and specialist staff required to maintain the UK’s health and social care sector; those working as part of the health and social care supply chain, including producers and distributers of medicines and medical and personal protective equipment.

Education and childcare: This includes nursery and teaching staff, social workers and those specialist education professionals who must remain active during the COVID-19 response to deliver this approach.

Key public services: This includes those essential to the running of the justice system, religious staff, charities and workers delivering key frontline services, those responsible for the management of the deceased, and journalists and broadcasters who are providing public service broadcasting.

Local and national government: This only includes those administrative occupations essential to the effective delivery of the COVID-19 response or delivering essential public services such as the payment of benefits, including in government agencies and arm’s length bodies.

Food and other necessary goods: This includes those involved in food production, processing, distribution, sale and delivery as well as those essential to the provision of other key goods (for example hygienic and veterinary medicines).

Public safety and national security: This includes police and support staff, Ministry of Defence civilians, contractor and armed forces personnel (those critical to the delivery of key defence and national security outputs and essential to the response to the COVID-19 pandemic), fire and rescue service employees (including support staff), National Crime Agency staff, those maintaining border security, prison and probation staff and other national security roles, including those overseas.

Transport: This includes those who will keep the air, water, road and rail passenger and freight transport modes operating during the COVID-19 response, including those working on transport systems through which supply chains pass.

Utilities, communication and financial services: This includes staff needed for essential financial services provision (including but not limited to workers in banks, building societies and financial market infrastructure), the oil, gas, electricity and water sectors (including sewerage), information technology and data infrastructure sector and primary industry supplies to continue during the COVID-19 response, as well as key staff working in the civil nuclear, chemicals, telecommunications (including but not limited to network operations, field engineering, call centre staff, IT and data infrastructure, 999 and 111 critical services), postal services and delivery, payments providers and waste disposal sectors.

The government guidelines do offer some guidance for parents regarding fees; they acknowledge that in many cases insurance will not necessarily cover nurseries providers. The government has set out a range of support for businesses to reduce the impact of COVID-19 on them. This includes a business rate holiday for all private childcare providers for one year from 1 April. Local authorities will be fully compensated for the cost of this.
Within the advice for parents and carers as publish last night, the narrative explains that because nurseries may have an absence of insurance, that is one of the reasons why it announced on 17th March that government would not claw back early years entitlements funding from local authorities during closures, or where children are withdrawn because of COVID-19. The guidance goes on to say that this protects a significant proportion of early years providers’ income, but such is not the case. For many operators the early years entitlement funding from local authorities may only account for say 20 to 30% of overall income, thus some providers could face a loss of income in the order to 70-80%.  We would encourage childcare and educational providers to engage with their bankers regarding further support, they may be able to offer repayment holidays etc. We would also encourage you to take advice on whether payment holiday on VAT and PAYE from HMRC could be a feasible option.

What next?
While key workers children should be at home if possible, those that can’t will be cared for by childcare providers and schools.  Some local authorities have already been in touch providers asking them to identify the children of key workers that they currently care for, along with the identification of vulnerable children in their setting or school. Once the provider has determined that list it has been requested that they liaise with the local authority in order for the local authority to understand how local coverage will work in practice.
As mentioned, we would encourage childcare and educational providers to engage with their bankers and also seek advice from their accountant on whether payment holiday on VAT and PAYE from HMRC could be a feasible option. Providers of leasehold premises should also write to their landlords to ask for a rent-free period.
As previously shared by the NDNA - The Department for Education coronavirus helpline is available to answer questions about COVID-19 relating to education and children’s social care. Staff, parents and young people can contact this helpline:
Phone: 0800 046 8687
Opening hours: 8am to 6pm Monday to Friday and 10am to 4pm Saturday and Sunday.
If you work in a school, please have your unique reference number (URN or UK PRN) available when calling the hotline.

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Childcare & Education Team
Courteney Donaldson
UK, Europe & Asia  

T: +44 7831 099 985
Nick Brown

T: +44 7764 241 316
Rosie Adlem

T: +44 7764 241 309
Julie Kitson
T:+44 7870917854
Sophie Willcox
South East  

T: +44 7736 620 855
Jassi Sunner
Midlands & South West

T: +44 7791 979 343
Sofia Beck
North West

T: +44 7736 616 68
Vicky Marsland
North East

T: +44 7526 175 857
Martin Daw

T: +44 7764 241 280
Alistair Watt

T: +44 7764 241 475

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