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Council announces support package for Norfolks early years providers

15 May 2020

A new £1.47m support package has been launched by Norfolk County Council to provide financial help to childcare providers during the COVID 19 pandemic.

Up to £850,000 of funding is being made available for the summer term to support those nurseries, pre-schools and childminders who have remained open to provide essential childcare to critical workers and vulnerable children but are struggling financially due the impact of the Covid-19 restrictions. Up to a further £600,000 is available to support all providers as more children return and the sector recovers.

Cllr John Fisher, Cabinet member for Children’s Services at Norfolk County Council, said: “We have been working hard throughout this emergency to support nurseries, pre-schools and childminders. They look after our youngest children AND have played an essential role in keeping vital services running.

“Many providers are small businesses and we know that COVID-19 has hit some of them hard financially. We’ve been giving them advice and support to access the government support that’s available and are pleased we can now set up this extra fund, to help those who are continuing to struggle. It’s crucial that we support this sector, so that key workers can continue to work and also ensure there are sufficient childcare places throughout the county, as we begin to recover from the pandemic.

“We are tremendously grateful to those who have stayed open and will continue to help and support them as much as we can.”

The £1.47m package is available as a result of parental entitlements for early years Dedicated Schools Grant (DSG) monies being unclaimed due to the pandemic, alongside amended government rules regarding use of the DSG monies. Other measures of support include providing access and signposting to in-house, local and national business and financial advice.

One of the reasons the early years sector is facing financial pressure is that a significant source of their income comes from parents paying privately for childcare. Most children have not been able to attend their early years setting because settings have only been open to the children of critical workers and vulnerable children. The Government’s COVID-19 recovery strategy states that nurseries and other early year providers, including childminders, can begin welcoming back all children from 1 of June. We expect the increase in numbers of children attending will be gradual, therefore we expect providers will continue to require support into the autumn term.

Additional help that the county council’s dedicated Early Years’ Service is providing includes:

  • Continue paying in full the early education funding for eligible two, three and four year-olds who cannot attend their settings, even if settings are closed (as long as closures comply with current Government requirements) 
  • Paid 50% of early education funding upfront in April to support providers’ cashflow
  • Sending regular alerts to providers with updated guidance and financial advice
  • Helping providers navigate the national support on offer to find the specialist financial advice and practical help they need either from in-house council finance officers or externally via organisations including the New Anglia Growth Hub
  • Asking all providers to let us know if they are continuing to experience financial difficulties as a result of COVID-19, so we can see what further support we can provide
  • Ensuring specialist staff are available to respond to telephone and other queries by maintaining the Early Years advice line
  • Providing specialist funding and financial advice from the Early Years Finance team
  • Working with district councils to ensure providers are receiving information about available cash grants and business rates relief

The council’s Early Years’ Service has been working locally with providers in cluster groups to ensure sufficient flexible places to meet the requirements of key workers and enough places for vulnerable children. Last week, a total of 1,297 critical worker children and 198 vulnerable children have attended placements during the lockdown at 378 providers across the county that remained open.

Managers of settings and childminders who have financial or other concerns can contact the Early Years’ Service at Norfolk County Council on 0344 800 8020 or email EarlyYearsChildcare@norfolk.gov.uk.

Any providers requiring specialist business advice can contact the New Anglia Growth Hub by email at growthhub@newanglia.co.uk or by phoning 0300 333 6536 Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm.

Norfolk County Council does not normally run early years settings but has a statutory responsibility to ensure there is sufficient local provision for working families.

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