Around half of nurseries staying open for key worker families


Around a half of nurseries in the UK are staying open for children of key workers and vulnerable children, a survey by the National Day Nurseries Association suggests.

Nurseries that are open for key workers and vulnerable children are running at just 12 per cent occupancy
Nurseries that are open for key workers and vulnerable children are running at just 12 per cent occupancy

However, many nurseries are losing hundreds of pounds a day and struggling to remain viable, as around 40 per cent of nurseries’ income is dependent on parents paying fees, and most are not charging families whose children are unable to attend during the current crisis.

The online survey, which ran last week, received responses from standalone nurseries and nursery groups representing 2,570 nurseries in England, Scotland and Wales, and found that 50 per cent of them were currently open. Responses were received from nearly all local authority areas.

NDNA said it is lobbying all three UK governments hard for more financial support for nurseries, without which many critical workers on the frontline, such as NHS staff, would not be able to carry out their essential work.

Those nurseries that responded to the survey and are open are running at greatly reduced occupancy, caring for just 12 per cent of the 140,000 children they usually care for - a total of 16,236 children.

The Government has closed nurseries and schools to all children except those of key workers and vulnerable children.

NDNA said that nurseries in the UK on average receive only 38 per cent of their income from Government funding, but 70 per cent have said they are not charging parents for children' s places which they are unable to take up.

Of those nurseries that are charging, 18 per cent are charging parents 25 per cent of their usual fees, while a minority (9 per cent) are asking for between 26-50 per cent of fees.

Around 3 per cent of nurseries charging fees were asking for more than half of normal fees because they fear that they will not be able to stay open as a viable business.

Reasons given for asking parents for contributions to fees for places they were not able to currently take up were:

  • Funded childcare payments only covering a fraction of their costs
  • Cashflow issues caused by delay in government support schemes
  • Fixed costs such as rent, mortgages and utilities
  • Lack of insurance coverage for Covid-19

NDNA chief executive, Purnima Tanuku said, ‘Our new research illustrates how difficult life is for our nurseries in the UK as they try to help the national response to Covid-19.

Different UK governments have pledged to maintain support through the usual funding for childcare places but our survey shows that this only makes up 38 per cent of their regular income on average. It does vary widely from nursery to nursery, with some relying completely on parental fees. All nurseries still have fixed overheads even with a fraction of their usual income.

Ms Tanuku added, ’Even with putting some staff on the Job Retention Scheme, many will struggle to keep their nursery businesses afloat. The Government support does not cover the running costs of those who are staying open and won’t cover all fixed costs for those who close. We know of nurseries that are running at a loss of hundreds of pounds per day to stay open for families who need them. But they won’t be able to sustain this for long.

'Employers are facing cashflow issues now but we know funds like the Job Retention Scheme won’t be accessible until the end of April at the earliest. This is why some nurseries are having to approach parents to help keep them in business. 

It’s time the Government acknowledged this and put their backing behind nurseries to make sure they are in a position to fully re-open when the country gets back to business as usual. Nurseries need to be able to access more support from Government such as the £10,000 small business grant and the £25,000 retail business grant.’

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