Hailsham childcare boss fears over changes to funding in Covid pandemic

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A nursery in Hailsham says it is no longer receiving funding for children if they are off for Covid related reasons.

Early years education funding is available at certain nursery schools and the entitlement starts after a child’s third birthday with support stopping when the child goes to school.

Under the EYE funding, each child is entitled to 15 hours a week of childcare for 38 weeks. Nurseries are provided with the funding from the government’s Department of Education.

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Currently, nurseries are still open through this third national lockdown. However, due to current circumstances, a lot of children aren’t attending due to Covid worries or self-isolation.

Deborah Worsell is the owner of Cheeky Little Monkeys Nursery in Hailsham, a non-profit making nursery and pre-school for children from two-years-old until primary school age.

Deborah said 90 per cent of the children at her nursery are entitled to the funding, so as a nursery owner she is supplied with the money to care for the children in question.

She said she was told from East Sussex County Council that she must ‘delete all children who aren’t attending’ nursery for Covid reasons - for Deborah’s nursery that equates to 80 per cent of the children on her books.

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Deborah said the council has decided not to fund any child who has chosen to self isolate, leaving her with less funding despite having to stay open and pay for the usual running costs.

She said, “This is forcing parents into a situation that they do not want to be in. As we are in a lockdown you would have thought the government and the local council would support the nurseries and go along with the parents’ wishes considering this will help the stop of spreading the virus.

“The Early Years Alliance is campaigning to reinstate the funding.

“We, along with many other nurseries, base our finances on the children we have on our books and we save them a space. Now we are told if they are not there on head count week then we will not receive any money.”

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Deborah says she has spoken to her local MP Nasrat Ghani, who is going to ‘see what she can do’.

Louise Gillett, manager at Cheeky Little Monkeys Nursery, said, “This will have serious repercussions on all nurseries.”

A spokesperson for East Sussex County Council said, “We appreciate how challenging the Covid crisis has been for early years providers, as it has been for other businesses across the county.

“Although administered by the local authority, early years funding comes from central government and guidance on how the funding is distributed is set by the Department for Education. We continue to follow this guidance, as we have throughout the crisis, and will make all necessary changes should that guidance change.

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“We have provided support to providers since the first lockdown last year, and continue to look for ways to support them. In the meantime we, along with other local authorities and national organisations, are in discussion with the DfE about the current situation.”