West Berkshire Council

Agenda item

Early Years Block Budget - Deficit recovery plan (Avril Allenby)

Minutes:

Avril Allenby introduced the report (Agenda Item 9) that aimed to update the Schools’ Forum on the Early Years Budget (EYB) and recovery plan in the light of COVID19.

Avril Allenby reported that originally the plan had been to bring a recovery plan for the EYB to the meeting of the Forum however, due to the recent Covid19 situation this had not been possible. The report provided the Forum with some background information to the situation and how this had impacted on early year’s providers. Early years was a particularly complex area of funding and the report aimed to clarify step by step how funding was being passed through to providers.

Avril Allenby reported that there was an Early Years Funding Group and then a wider Early Years Group that represented the whole range of settings in the sector including child minders, private providers and day nurseries. Due to the pandemic this group had been unable to meet however, it would be meeting within the next week. It was this group that would be consulted on the development of the EYB deficit recovery plan and budget plans for the year.

The timeline and impact for early year’s settings in light of the pandemic was similar to that experienced by schools. They had been requested to close their doors in March to the wider group of children and only accept the children of key works and children who were vulnerable.

The report went through the steps that were being followed by the Local Authority to provide funding to early years settings. There were key dates throughout the year that were detailed within the table under section 3.4 of the report. There was a system in place that captured the number of children accessing a setting. An estimate was used and then this was finalised using a ‘Headcount Day’ task and funding was adjusted accordingly. Avril Allenby explained that this process was underway when the lockdown was first enforced and therefore the Local Authority had been able to provide funding on the information obtained. Soon after the lockdown was imposed the Government announced that local authorities would have to continue to pass funding through to early years settings.

Avril Allenby explained that going forward there were significant issues being faced. Children were beginning to return to early years settings however, the sector was having to follow similar requirements to schools regarding social distancing and therefore there were limits on how many children could be catered for. The Local Authority however, would need to continue funding early year’s providers and roll funding forward.

Avril Allenby stressed the complexity of the situation, which was compounded by the issue that some providers were funded entirely by the entitlement funding provided by the Government. Others settings used a combination of this funding and income generation. It was important that the childcare market was sustained for when parents were able to return to work.

Avril Allenby stated that the childcare market was extremely fragile and was being impacted upon by various aspects of the Covid19 situation, including staffing issues and reduced numbers of children. A whole range of financial packages had been offered however, for many childcare settings these were often difficult to access. For example regarding furlough, childcare settings were only able to furlough staff paid for out of their generated income and for some settings, this only made up a small proportion of their income. There was also small business grants, however many providers found these difficult to access and rate relief, which could only be accessed by some providers as not all providers owned their own properties.  

The Chairman thanked Avril Allenby for her report and acknowledged the difficult situation being faced. Maria Morgan thanked Avril Allenby for her thorough report and reported that the other issue impacting on early year’s settings was the changes in children numbers each term. The summer term was normally when settings were at their fullest and then in the autumn term with children moving on to primary school these numbers normally dropped, adding to the increasingly complex picture for early years settings.

RESOLVED that the Schools’ Forum noted the report and that a further report would be brought to the next meeting in July 2020.

Supporting documents: