Coronavirus: Nearly half of childminders could stay closed for up to a year

Catherine Gaunt
Friday, March 27, 2020

Fewer than half of childminders that have closed due to the Covid-19 pandemic plan to re-open within the next year, findings from a survey of childminders and childcare providers suggests.

Of those that have closed their setting, 46 per cent said they plan to reopen within three months to a year
Of those that have closed their setting, 46 per cent said they plan to reopen within three months to a year

The survey by PACEY reveals the devastating long-term impact that Covid-19 could have on the future sustainability of the childcare sector.

Since the closure of educational and childcare settings to all but those children of key workers or vulnerable children, most childcare providers have either closed or seen significant reductions in the number of children they are caring for, which means that their income is has been drastically reduced.

In addition, unlike nurseries, most childminders do not take funded early education places, which means they do not benefit from local authority funding.

The interim findings from the PACEY Covid-19 survey are based on 6,211 responses between 22 and  25 March, nearly all of them from registered childminding settings.

The survey findings were released on Thursday, prior to the Chancellor’s announcement yesterday evening of help for self-employed workers, including childminders.

The survey found that:

  • 46 per cent have closed their setting due to coronavirus and do not plan to re-open within three months to a year
  • 54 per cent have stayed open to care for the children of critical workers or vulnerable children
  • Of those who are open still, many are caring for drastically reduced numbers of children - 45 per cent of these providers are concerned this is not financially viable for them going forward

Of those who have closed their setting, less than half (46 per cent) say they plan to reopen within three months to a year. 

A further 9 per cent have already decided to close permanently or are undecided if they will re-open. 

More than a quarter (27 per cent) said they were unsure what they will do after the outbreak and need advice and support.

Reasons for current closures

46 per cent have not been asked to offer childcare to vulnerable and key workers children

  • 20 per cent are closed because they are concerned about the health of staff/their family, or themselves.
  • 35 per cent have been told by current parents that their service if not needed, as they are working from home
  • 18 per cent stated they were closed because they or someone else in their setting is unwell or self-isolating
  • 9 per cent stated they are in an ‘at risk’ group so self-isolating 

However, when asked what will happen when the pandemic has passed, more than 70 per cent of respondents said they plan to reopen, while  27 per cent said they need help and advice in order to decide.

Three-quarters of respondents (76 per cent) were registered childminders, working on their own; 11 per cent were registered childminders employing one or more assistants; 6  per cent were registered childminders working with other childminders on the same premises; 4 per cent were nurseries and other early years settings.

The country-wide breakdown shows that 88 per cent of respondents were in England and 12 per cent in Wales.

Liz Bayram, PACEY chief executive, said, ‘While it is still early days, our interim findings paint a stark picture. We know Government advice to close has been necessary to help slow the spread of coronavirus. 

More needs to be done to support childcare providers to survive the impact of coronavirus. We need to understand the long-term impact and the support all childcare providers will need, especially childminders, so that there is a strong early years and childcare sector that families can rely on when we all return to our normal working lives.’

Comments from survey respondents

‘The coronavirus has had a huge impact on my childminding business due to the loss of parental fees. The number of children I care for has dropped from 15 to 2 causing me to lose 65-70 per cent of my income. I am a single parent with a dependent child and have no other wage coming in. I am fearful that I might have to close my childminding practice permanently as three parents have terminated their contracts with me with immediate effect as they have had their hours reduced or are self-employed themselves and are going to struggle financially.’

After 30 years building a childcare business in Swansea, 40 staff and over 120 children over two settings we had to tell three-quarters of our parents not to come in again - devastating. One nursery is in the grounds of hospital and I am staying open to support them. We are devastated but will rebuild on the other side of this.’

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