Coronavirus: PVI recovery fund a ‘lifeline’ for early years settings

Nicole Weinstein
Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Small private and voluntary providers in areas of disadvantage have given thanks for a ‘lifeline’ Covid-19 recovery grant from the Early Years Alliance, which has helped them sustain their businesses during the pandemic.

Little Oaks in Manchester bought a portable sink with their grant
Little Oaks in Manchester bought a portable sink with their grant

The Early Years Alliance Covid-19 Recovery Fund, launched in July, has provided grants of up to £750 to 52 of its members to help with the challenge of reopening provision during the Covid-19 crisis. 

Help with costs associated with deep cleaning and the purchase of equipment and resources, as well as provision for vulnerable or disadvantaged children, were supported by the £33,000 grant, which was funded by previous donations ringfenced to support early years settings in need.

Unlike schools, private and voluntary settings are not eligible for any extra funding from the Government to pay for costs associated with the pandemic.

Sector organisations have called repeatedly on the Government to provide extra funding for private and voluntary providers to help them to pay for the extra costs involved in staying open during the pandemic.

Marie Bullard, manager at Daisy Chain Preschool Suffolk, who used the grant for cleaning materials, PPE and ink cartridges to print out information for parents, said, ‘It was not only a lifeline but also a morale booster, as someone out there actually cared.’

The Alliance said that it would continue to do ‘all it can’ to support providers through this challenging period and described it as ‘truly heart-warming’ to hear the impact this funding has had on the providers and groups that have benefitted from it.

But chief executive of the Alliance, Neil Leitch, said, ‘It really is incumbent upon the Government to step up and implement a formal framework of financial support to ensure that providers are able to meet the high costs of operating during a pandemic. We know that this is an incredibly difficult time for our members and that there is a real need for more support on the day-to-day costs that providers are facing as a result of the pandemic.

He added, ‘Registered providers such as nurseries, pre-school and childminders, and other family services like baby and toddler groups, crèches and children’s centres are all working incredibly hard to continue to offer high-quality services to children and families as safely as possible. It’s long past time that the Government recognised this and gave these vital services the support they need to continue doing the vital work they are doing, both during this pandemic and beyond.’


CASE STUDIES

The fund was open to all provider types, including Alliance member nurseries, pre-schools, childminders, baby and toddler groups, children’s centres and creches, with priority given to smaller providers and those located within the 50 per cent most deprived wards. 

Below are some examples of how providers used the funding.

Marie Bullard, manager of Daisy Chain Pre-school in Suffolk

‘We closed on 20 March, not knowing what to expect and realising we were not going back to work for some time. The grant was not only a lifeline but also a morale booster, as someone out there actually cared.

‘When we knew we could return in June, we started to email parents – it took three attempts but we managed to open on 15 June. The money we received went on all the extra items needed to be safe, cleaning materials, PPE and ink for printed information that parents needed.

‘We didn't know what to expect on returning in September as we only had two children from the previous term due to school nursery intake, but already we have 13 children by the end of September, and at present are coping really well with these strange times, so we would like to thank the Alliance for their support.’

Beverley Cross, manager of Victoria Pre-school in Chatham

We now have a mobile wash station in the garden, which encourages all the children to hand wash regularly and independently. 

‘We purchased a further six good quality all-in-one suits for our very muddy garden so that we could allocate one per child and include all the children in our outdoor activities, particularly those from more disadvantaged families.

Since we’ve been back, we’ve been using more cleaning products, gloves, aprons and protective equipment for staff. This has been good for the well-being of the staff as they have to feel safe working with quite poorly little children at times. A lot of our children are in nappies and we have close contact with them.

‘Lastly, our steam mop is invaluable. We’ve replaced our carpet with vinyl and we do a deep-clean with the steam mop after washing the floor. We can also turn it into a handheld steamer which we can use in all areas including the kitchen and on other equipment which we feel needs a deeper clean.

‘This grant has certainly contributed to the well-being of the staff and children and helped us in opening up again this term.’

Lisa Oakley, nursery manager and owner of Little Oaks in Manchester

'We bought a Kiddiwash portable sink as our children need to wash their hands frequently and we only have bathrooms at one end of our building. The sink is portable so we’ve been able to move it around the setting rather than having all the children queue at the bathroom.

‘We’ve bought a lunch trolley to allow snacks and meals to be taken to the different rooms so children can stay in bubbles. Before Covid, we would all eat together but now the cook can transport meals to the different groups of children.

‘We also needed to divide our garden with a fence so that different groups of children could be outside at the same time. This has made such a difference as now children do not need to wait for a separate group to come inside. Also, with current guidance stating we should be outside more, this has really enabled us to do this effectively.

‘Our last purchase was a set of walkie talkies so that staff can communicate with each other and ensure the separate bubbles do not mix unintentionally throughout the day.

‘The grant really has made a difference to our daily operation as we have had to adjust to new ways of working.’

Janine Gosling, director, My Baby Can Dance in Kingston upon Hull

'We have been using the grant successfully to build together a new way of delivering our classes, safely. The fear of coming back to business, never mind actually running a class session, financially filled us with despair. 

‘After buying cleaning equipment and PPE, I'd say the biggest purchase by far was our individual wipeable mats - and they are stunning. Now each mummy and child has an individual place, and once again these mats are going to be with me for a long time.

‘We've added more equipment to our collection of sensory toys to put in individual bags, something that has been a must because you need so much more rather than a collection of toys in a box. I am so grateful for this grant.’

Vikki Thomas Centre Manager at Little Otters Children’s Centre in Cornwall

'We really appreciated being awarded the grant from the Covid-19 recovery fund. The beanbags have really made a difference to our sensory area.It is so important to have soft furnishings in this area, especially for one child who attends the setting who uses this area to relax and explore. They are wipe clean, which enables us to clean them each day. We can't wait for the cushions to arrive to complete the area into a comfortable, sensory space.’

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