Tops Day Nurseries director warns of early years staffing crisis as furlough scheme set to end
A LEADING nursery provider has warned of an impending ‘childcare staffing crisis’ as the furlough scheme is set to finish at the end of this month.
The warning comes from Cheryl Hadland, managing director of Tops Day Nurseries which has branches across the south coast including one at Lakeside in Northarbour, Portsmouth and another at Queen Alexandra Hospital.
Cheryl decided to reiterate her concerns following a survey by the National Day Nurseries Association which revealed the level on ongoing dependence on the scheme as childcare numbers struggle to recover from the initial lockdown and parents have once again been urged by the government to work from home.
Research showed that 71 per cent of staff working in early years settings were furloughed between March and August with another 18 per cent remaining on furlough between August and October.
Four per cent of early years staff have been made redundant since the onset of the pandemic but Cheryl expects this number to increase greatly without extended government support.
She said: ‘Six of our Hampshire nurseries remained open throughout the pandemic in order to support the local hospital and other key workers. But due to the government enforced restrictions and lack of demand for childcare our numbers were restricted and we did temporarily close three nurseries.
‘We were asked to begin welcoming more children back from June 1 but not all children returned. Recent Department for Education figures show just 414,000 children were attending across the country – around 25 per cent of the usual number. Many of our parents have been made redundant, are self-isolating or working from home so the demand for childcare is not what it was earlier this year.
‘Without the support of extended furlough or any other government schemes to support the early years industry, it’s going to make things extremely difficult for us.’
The nursery boss was last month joined by other leading childcare providers from across the city in expressing concerns for a shortfall in pre-school practitioners brought about by years of under-funding.
Speaking at the time Lucy Whitehead, owner of the Rainbow Corner Day Nursery in Southsea, said: ‘Speaking to colleagues around the region we already have a crisis in recruitment.
‘It’s really difficult to find suitable candidates as with payment levels on offer, people would rather do other things such as working as a teaching assistant.
‘We always seem to be at the bottom of the government’s list. Greater funding is required which would allow practitioners to be paid at the going rate.’
The concern for Cheryl is this situation in only going to be exacerbated with the end of the support scheme.
She said: ‘The sector was already losing hundreds of nurseries and childminders every month before this crisis hit due to years of under-funding. It can’t afford for any more to close, but that is precisely what will happen unless the government targets support for sectors like childcare.’