Early years funding support
Wiltshire Council is offering an incentive scheme to cover the additional costs incurred by the early years providers who have remained open for vulnerable children and children of key workers.
In recognition of the challenges of continuing to provide childcare, the council will pay an additional £100 per eligible child, per week, to providers that have remained open since the beginning of April. Those settings that remain open during the COVID-19 pandemic are ensuring that key workers continue to provide critical services to communities whilst helping our most vulnerable children to receive a continuous education. Currently 25% of the settings are open and some may struggle to meet demand.
Settings that have remained open will have additional running costs and resources including additional cleaning and catering costs as well as bank holiday payments. These settings are not able to furlough staff part time and are also taking in additional children where necessary. To safeguard the sufficiency of the sector at this time all open settings will get 100% of their entitlement plus a further £100 per eligible child per week to offset the additional cost of staying open.
Cllr Philip Whitehead, Leader of Wiltshire Council, said: "We have looked very carefully at the incentive scheme to ensure that it supports early years providers that remain open.
"We know for some providers it was not possible to remain open and we are supporting those providers to access the government's COVID-19 support package as well as receiving 80% of their Early Years Entitlement Funding for 2,3 and 4 year olds. These changes will be introduced in June to help settings prepare. We will continue to review this situation and take into account any further announcements from the government.
"Thank you to all of our providers who remain open supporting our families and communities at this unprecedented time."
Closed settings will receive 100% of their early years entitlement for the summer term in April and May with the intention of reconciling the 20% reduction for each of these months in June. This approach means they will have sufficient time to plan ahead and access government funding. In June settings which are closed will receive 40% of their funding entitlement. If any setting anticipates a financial hardship as a result of this proposal they are encourage to contact the council to discuss their situation.
John Proctor Chair of the Early Years Reference Group and Director of South Hills Nurseries which has 10 nurseries across Wiltshire explained how the additional payments for those settings which remain open will help to meet the higher costs: "Some nurseries may be open and have days with four or five staff and only four children or they may be staying open for just two children of key workers. These high staff children ratios need to be maintained in the interest of the children as some come with their own key worker from another setting, but the cost of this can be very expensive.
"This additional funding will help to pay for these additional costs and for any staff who may be travelling to another setting to ensure children can stay settled with staff they know. There are some nurseries where 'key workers' have requested a place for their child but because there are only one or two children they have decided it is not viable to open. Those that close will still have a grant and a waiver of business rates and receive additional government help to pay 80% their staff costs where needed,"
Settings which are closed are able to access the Government's COVID 19 support package. This includes the Job Retention Scheme which childcare providers can access while continuing to be paid the Early Years Entitlement Funding via their local authority. Childminders can use the self-employment Income Support Scheme and claim a taxable grant worth 80% of their trading profits up to a maximum of £2,500 per month for the next three months.