This page will provide a rolling update of the UK’s latest COVID-19 guidelines and information for childcare providers and schools. We’ll update this page regularly as new announcements come in from the Government and the childcare sector.
Here is what we know so far.
25 May 2020
England: Planning guide for early years and childcare settings
While most settings welcome the publication of further guidance for early years providers, there are many concerns that this document has been published on the Sunday of a Bank Holiday weekend, a little over a week ahead of the planned reopening. The planning guide is available here.
Scotland: Letter from Early Learning and Childcare Directorate
The Scottish Government Early Learning and Childcare Directorate has issued a letter to all childcare providers. This letter outlines what Scotland's phased approach out of lockdown will mean for them. The letter is available here.
DfE: Updated guidance for early years providers
The DfE has updated its previous guidance for early years and childcare providers during the coronavirus outbreak. The updated guidance for providers is available here.
The updated guidance includes a new section clarifying the position on welcoming back all children to early years settings from 1 June, information on when childminders can reopen to more children, and what provision they can currently provide, information on testing for essential workers, and information for parents on temporary changes to the 30 hours free early education entitlements.
Overview of scientific information on coronavirus (COVID-19)
More information on the scientific evidence for allowing early years settings to re-open is available here. Note: Applies to England.
DfE: New guidance for early years providers (Please refer updated guidance)
The DfE has published more detailed guidance for early years providers and schools about reopening from 1 June. It is important to note that this date is provisional, and dependent on scientific evidence.
Nurseries and other early years providers, including childminders are expected to welcome back all children, regardless of whether or not their parents are key workers. The DfE has confirmed that the 1 June date applies to childminders as well as nurseries and pre-schools, despite earlier government guidance wrongly stating that childminders could open from 13 May.
The full guidance for providers is available here. The government has also published guidance on implementing protective measures in education and childcare settings.
Chancellor extends furlough scheme until October
Chancellor Rishi Sunak has announced that the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme will now be extended until the end of October. The Chancellor also said that there will not be any changes to the scheme until the end of July, with employers still able to claim up to 80% of furloughed workers’ pay. From August onwards, the scheme will allow for greater flexibility with workers able to return to work part-time and the Chancellor suggested that employers may need to make greater contributions to their employees’ salaries. There has been no equivalent update in relation to the Self-Employed Income Support Scheme, we will provide more updates as soon as it is available.
Our Plan to Rebuild: The UK Government’s COVID-19 recovery strategy
The UK government has just published its Covid-19 recovery strategy. We are expecting further guidance from the DfE and will share this as soon as it is available.
Petition to reinstate full furlough funding for early years
More than 70,000 people have signed a Change.Org petition against the Government’s unexpected U-turn regarding furlough funding for early years. Despite issuing guidance on 24 March that childcare providers would continue to receive early years entitlement funding and can access the furlough scheme, new guidance out on Friday states that making both the schemes accessible to childcare providers would mean many would be receiving double-funding. The overly simplistic calculation by the Government will dramatically affect the support the providers can get at a very challenging time.
You can sign the petition here.
Online portal to claim furlough funding is now live
UK Businesses can now claim staff wages for furloughed employees via the new portal set up by the HMRC on 20 April. The Treasury says the funds to pay staff should reach each company’s bank account within six working days. Read more
Updated COVID guidelines on PPE for early years
The Department for Education has confirmed in its latest updates that “educational staff do not require personal protective equipment’ and that PPE is only “needed by medical and care professionals providing specific, close contact care or procedures that create airborne risk, such as suctioning and physiotherapy, for anyone who has coronavirus (COVID-19) and is displaying symptoms”.
The guidance also provides clarification that childcare settings and local authorities can make a judgement on the definition of ‘vulnerable children’ with regards to children who may not have been formally recognised as ‘vulnerable’.
New proposal to relax EYFS requirements and Staff: Children Ratios
The Department for Education has put forward a proposal for temporary flexibility on several requirements in the Early Years Foundation Stage statutory framework – which will include progress checks, staff: children ratios and qualification requirements. However, the proposals are subject to Parliamentary approval by the end of April, and the current EYFS requirements will continue to apply until further confirmation.
Wales diverts 30-hour childcare funds to pay for key workers’ children
The Welsh Government is introducing a coronavirus childcare assistance scheme to support critical care workers. The Government has announced they will suspend the 30-hour childcare scheme temporarily and use the funds to pay for childcare availed by keyworkers. Childcare providers will receive funding for children who have already been booked into a place until June. More guidance to follow.
DofE updates guidance on childcare closure and staffing requirements
The Department of Education has added a new section to the guidance on childcare closures and encouraging schools and early years providers to continue providing childcare to the children of critical care workers during this period. Some of the key areas covered in the guidance are:
- ‘Hub working’, where centres can merge and pool staff to ensure the businesses can remain viable while offering sufficient number of places to keyworkers’ children
- Details on whether centres are still covered by public liability insurance
- Clarifications on DBS and Paediatric-First Aid Requirements of staff
HMRC clarifies childcare providers can rotate staff on furlough
The HMRC has clarified that childcare staff can be placed on furlough more than once, giving early years settings the ability to ‘unfurlough’ and ‘refurlough’ staff if they are sick or in ‘self-isolation’. The announcement has been welcomed by the childcare sector and is expected to allow providers much-needed flexibility in accessing the Job Retention Scheme. Read more
PACEY raises concerns with Treasury Committee regarding support for the self-employed
The Professional Association for Childcare and Early Years (PACEY) has submitted supporting evidence to the Treasury Committee about concerns regarding the financial package offered for the self-employed. Some of the key concerns raised are:
- The delay until June for the payment of financial support
- The exclusion of sole traders with no tax return for the 18/19 tax year
- Not considering the full-time self-employed
- The omission of limited company owners from the list
1140 hour childcare delayed to focus on pandemic response
The Scottish Government has announced that local authorities will no longer have a statutory obligation to provide 1140-hours of childcare from August 2020. The rollout has been revoked to ensure local authorities can focus on the coronavirus pandemic response and continue providing emergency childcare to key workers during this period. Read more
CAF announces grants of up to 10k for small charities
Childcare providers and organisations who are registered as charities can avail grants of up to 10k from the Charities Aid Foundation to cover their core costs including staffing, supplies and equipment, communication etc. Organisations can apply if they fall under the following category:
- UK registered charities (registered with Scottish Charity Regulator, Charity Commission or Charity Commission for Northern Ireland, or as indicated in the Charities Act 2010)
- Organisations registered with the Public Mutuals Register, or Companies House as a charitable or not-for-profit entity
- Unregistered entities and social enterprises
The charity said it aims to make the funds available to chosen applicants within 2 weeks of application.
Government publishes detailed information on the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme
The updated guidelines cover the following:
- Details on who will and will not be eligible for the grant
- Calculating the support for those with variable earnings or zero-hour contracts
- The impact on Living Wages and National Minimum Wage
- The evidence employers will need to submit to apply for the scheme
- Training, volunteering and additional jobs
UK Government announces aid for self-employed
In a monumental announcement, Chancellor Rishi Sunak has announced a COVID-19 grant of up to £2500 per month for the self-employed sector, which includes nearly 40,000 childminders across the UK. The grant will be worth 80% of their average income for the last three years, for up to a maximum of 2500. This will be available at least for three months and will be extended if necessary. Read more
New emergency measures unveiled for childcare providers in Ireland
The Minister for Children has announced new emergency measures to pay childcare providers in full for the next three months. Providers will be required to sign a COVID-19 Emergency Agreement confirming they will not be charging parents during this period. Read more
DfE issues new guidance on social distancing for children in emergency childcare
The latest social distancing guidelines issued by the DfE on 25th March outline the following:
- Make sure the children who can be cared for are kept at home to reduce the chances of spread. The likelihood of children contracting the virus is about the same as that of adults. But the symptoms are usually mild.
- Children with mild underlying health conditions can continue to receive emergency childcare, but not those who fall in the most vulnerable groups. However, staff who are in this category must also not attend work
- Children who have an EHC plan must be risk-assessed by the Local Authority and can continue to attend if appropriate
- Social distancing measures to be followed within the setting are also outlined such as staggering lunchtimes, pick-ups and drop-offs and improving hygiene practices
Morton Michel setting up online platform to expedite insurance claims for nurseries
Insurance providers Morton Michel notify NDNA about setting up a new online claim form for nurseries to speed up the processing of policy claims due to COVID-19. Depending on individual policies and level of cover, nurseries may be able to claim under Extension 7 in the Loss of Revenue section of the policy. More details to follow.
New Buddy Scheme for early years providers to stay connected
Juliette Davies of EY Matter and senior childhood lecturer Aaron Bradbury has launched a new Buddy Scheme to provide an online platform for childcare providers to share concerns and stay connected. The scheme is aimed at ensuring the providers and frontline workers have someone to talk to and do not feel alone or suffer in silence during this uncertain period.
Chancellor considering support for self-employed
Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, announced in the House of Commons that the Government is looking at how to support self-employed individuals, which includes the tens of thousands of childminders, who were left out of the financial aid packages announced so far. Although Mr Sunak said it is ‘incredibly complicated’ to design a system to support the self-employed, he said intensive work is underway to deliver a ‘fair and deliverable’ package to the self-employed. Read more
Economic support for childcare providers
A range of financial packages have been announced by the government to support childcare providers through the period of disruption caused by COVID-19:
- Grant to cover staff wages: The chancellor has announced a grant for organisations to cover the salaries of staff who are not working due to shutdowns, but who haven’t been laid off. The HMRC grant will cover 80 per cent of the salaries of retained workers for up to £2,500 a month. Visit the Gov.UK Covid:19 Support for Businesses page for updated details on how to claim your reimbursements.
- Exemption from business rates: All voluntary, private, independent nurseries will be exempt from business rates for one year from 01 April.
- Payment deferral for VAT: Deferring VAT payments for businesses for the next quarter. You will have until the end of the 2020-21 tax year to pay off any liabilities accumulated during the deferral period.
- Business Interruption loans: An extension has been provided for the coronavirus business interruption loan scheme to offer interest-free loans for 12 months (up from six months).
- Universal credit An increase to the universal credit allowance by £1,000 for the next 12 months, which means universal credit payments will be paid at a rate equivalent to statutory sick pay.
- Vouchers for families on free school meals: Schools will have the flexibility to offer meals or vouchers for food shopping for to low-income families who are not going to school because of school closures. Schools can order the vouchers directly from supermarkets or shops and post or email them to the families. The costs will be covered by the Department of Education. More details including the value of the vouchers will be announced shortly via published guidance.
Key workers list
The Government has published a list classifying workers from the following sectors as key workers essential to help in the Covid-19 crisis response:
- Health and Social Care: Doctors, nurses, paramedics, midwives, social workers, care workers and other frontline health and social care staff
- Education and childcare: Teaching and nursery staff, social workers and those specialist education professionals who must remain active during the COVID-19 response
- Local and national Government: Administrative occupations which are essential to the effective delivery of the COVID-19 response or delivering crucial public services, such as the payment of benefits
- Key public services: The justice system, religious staff, charities and workers offering vital frontline services, broadcasters and journalists who are providing public service broadcasting
- Food and other necessary goods: Workers involved in food production, processing, distribution, delivery and sale, as well as those crucial to the provision of other vital goods
- Transport: Those who will keep the air, water, road and rail passenger and freight transport modes operating during the crisis, including those working on transport systems through which supply chains pass
- Public safety and national security: Police and support staff, contractors and armed forces personnel, ministry and defence civilians, fire and rescue service employees, National Crime Agency staff, those maintaining border security, prison and probation staff and other national security roles
- Utilities, communication and financial services: Workers needed for essential financial services provision, the oil, gas, electricity and water sectors, information technology and data infrastructure sector and primary industry supplies to continue during the Covid response, as well as key staff working in the civil nuclear, chemicals, telecommunications, postal services and delivery, payments providers and waste disposal sectors
The Government has advised the Local Authorities to ensure children of key workers have continuing access to appropriate learning and childcare so that the parents/carers on the front line can participate in the COVID response. Please make sure you contact your local authority ELC team if you are planning to offer services to the categories listed above.
Support from the sector
PACEY urges Government for financial support to childminders
As over 41000 childminders in England and Wales have not been offered any substantial financial support in the plans announced so far, PACEY is calling for more action to prevent childminding businesses from shutting permanently. The chancellor’s current job retention scheme does not apply to the self-employed who are out of work – which includes the childminders sector. Read more
New early years working group to lobby and coordinate responses
More than 20 leading nursery operators and early years organisations have joined hands to create the UK Childcare Covid19 Crisis Working Group. The group will represent the entire sector and will feed in the industry’s needs to the Government by joining up with lobbying member organisations (the Early Years Alliance and NDNA).
Some of the key points discussed in its first meeting held on 19 March are:
- The ongoing lobbying efforts, including the recent success in business rates exemption.
- The inconsistency in insurance coverage for nurseries (from zero coverage to a cap of £100,000)
- Offline conversations which providers have had with MPs, in which they were told about ‘substantial measures’ which would be announced soon.
- The need for an electronic forum to enable transparent sharing of information across the sector in relation to the COVID-19 crisis (a plan is currently being put in place by the group to do so). Read more
Appeal to supermarkets to prioritise access for early years providers
The Early Years Alliance has reached out to all major supermarkets to develop a scheme to ensure childcare providers across the UK has access to vital provisions to ensure a smooth service. The sector has requested the supermarkets to consider a prioritisation scheme for childcare providers – similar to what is currently offered to the over 70s during the first hour of morning trade. Read more
Helplines for support: