There will be a Westminster Hall debate this afternoon on the future of nurseries and early year settings. Luke been in contact with many Early Years providers and parents since the start of the pandemic, and he has heard many of their concerns around provision for children.
The Early Years sector has been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. Survey after survey has shown that nurseries and childminders are on the brink of collapse. The small increase in the childcare funding rate we saw at the spending review is nothing like enough to prevent mass childcare closures, especially if Ministers press ahead with the misguided plan to fund providers from January based on the current reduced occupancy levels.
Although Luke is unable to speak in this debate as a member of Labour’s frontbench, he shares the concerns in this area. He wrote to the Education Secretary earlier in the year on behalf of Early Years providers in Plymouth, to echo their concerns around the enormous financial pressure they have been put under. This is not only due to the pandemic, but also as a result of the funding rate not increasing in line with the expenses of providing good quality childcare.
Luke Pollard MP said:
Plymouth prides itself on having enough childcare places in settings that are almost all good or outstanding. Unfortunately, this situation could easily change very quickly, and parents may be unable to find a childcare place.
I have written to the Education Secretary to ask what extra provision he was making in terms of immediate short-term funding for local authorities in order to get the sector through the pandemic, and what changes to the funding formula were being considered to fund these settings in the future.
His response was that this would be reviewed at the Spending Review, where we did not see the support for Early Years settings, and the Local Authorities which support them, that they need.
There is a clear underfunding of the system which needs to be highlighted but seeing the sector through this challenging period requires urgent action, to ensure that these providers are able to survive this period and provide good care to children for many years to come.
I will continue to campaign for greater support for the sector and support the Local Authority through this difficult period.