West Berkshire Council

Agenda item

Financial Impact of Covid19 on the Early Years Block (Avril Allenby)

Minutes:

Avril Allenby introduced the report (Agenda Item 14) which updated the Schools’ Forum on the financial impact of COVID-19 on the Early Years Funding Block. Avril Allenby explained that the report linked to the earlier report on the Early Years Block Budget.

Similar to schools, the majority of early years providers had remained open throughout the period of Covid, working with vulnerable children and children of key workers. There was a direct impact in that funding for many early years settings was split between funding from the early years Dedicated Schools Grant (DSG) and private income generation. Increasingly it was becoming apparent that the impact would be long term rather than short term. Avril Allenby stressed the impact of the issues being faced on vulnerable children.

Avril Allenby referred to section 3.8 of the report and highlighted that there were also other hidden costs, for example there had been no additional funding given to early years settings for PPE. There were a lot of challenges to deal with, with limited resources.

Avril Allenby drew attention to section 3.10 of the report and stated that the hours and number of total funded children for autumn 2019 had been viewed in comparison with the hours for autumn 2020. It could be seen that extended hours had dropped considerably and to some extent universal hours had dropped too. Avril Allenby explained that parents were still not accessing the same level of hours as they were prior to the pandemic. This was partly due to more parents working from home and not requiring the wrap around aspect of childcare.

Since lockdown there had been three confirmed closures of early years settings. Avril Allenby stressed that many others were struggling financially and were facing a range of issues including redundancy costs. Providers most at risk were community run settings, which were non-profit organisations.

Avril Allenby reported that settings would have been funded for the current term based on levels from the previous autumn term, which had been a great support to sector. There was uncertainty however, regarding what would happen going forward. Positively the early years market in West Berkshire was a buoyant one and providers worked very well with the Local Authority.

Avril Allenby commented that the report gave a picture of what was being faced by the early year’s sector and the difficulty of budget constraints.

Brian Jenkins reiterated his point regarding the volatility around numbers within the sector. He asked that members of the Forum use the two reports that had been presented on the Early Years sector as a tutorial regarding what the sector was faced with. Unlike schools, most of the organisations in sector were privately run with any losses impacting directly on owners. Those within the sector were being constructive in their approach and were doing their best in a very difficult situation, but were very dependent on Covid-19 being defeated. Early years settings often ran at a loss during the winter period and made up costs over the summer. As a result of Covid-19 settings had been faced with two winter periods and had missed out on the financial benefit of the summer due to it being spent in lockdown. The Early Years Funding Group were due to meet on the 14th December and would be discussing the issue again in time for the Schools’ Forum meeting in January.

Maria Morgan concurred with Brian Jenkins and stressed the huge impact upon all types of settings across the board, including large settings like Victoria Park and Hungerford Nurseries. She stressed the impact on private billing, which was an issue that had been raised by MP Laura Farris in Parliament.

RESOLVED that the Schools’ Forum noted the report.  

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