Doctors call for more funding for nurseries caring for key worker children

Annette Rawstrone
Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Nurseries that are continuing to operate during the Covid-19 pandemic to support frontline workers need financial support now to keep sustainable, the National Day Nurseries Association (NDNA) and British Medical Association (BMA) have jointly stated.

Uncertainty around nursery provision is causing ongoing problems for healthcare workers, with some unable to work because they have no childcare
Uncertainty around nursery provision is causing ongoing problems for healthcare workers, with some unable to work because they have no childcare

They are calling for better funding and support for childcare providers so that the children of critical workers can get easier access to the care that they need and settings can remain viable.

They also want ‘greater clarity’ on how childcare services will reopen safely and with financial support and security to operate with reduced numbers of childcare for months to come.  

The NDNA highlights that many settings that have remained open are operating at a financial loss. Many report that they cannot access the small business grant of £10,000 and other forms of business support.

‘We know from our members that a lot of nurseries which have stayed open during this crisis to support NHS staff are running at a loss, with some losing thousands of pounds a week,’ said NDNA chief executive Purnima Tanuku.

‘The Government have announced that nurseries can fully reopen from the beginning of June and that the furlough scheme will run into October but nurseries delivering emergency childcare need support now.’

She added that nursery owners worried about long-term future sustainability do not want to get themselves into more debt by taking out loans. ‘Childcare places for our frontline medical staff along with other critical workers won’t be available if nurseries and other providers aren’t supported to be sustainable,’ she said.

The BMA states that uncertainty around childcare provision is causing ongoing problems and anxiety for thousands of healthcare workers. With many childcare services being closed during the pandemic some medical professionals have been unable to go to work or have been paying higher fees because of short notice rota changes and longer shifts.

Dr Helena McKeown, chair of the BMA representative body, said that it is only right for critical workers to know that their own children are being safely cared for while they look after patients.

‘Inadequate childcare provision is keeping doctors who are fit and able to go to work at home when the NHS needs them more than ever. Difficulties in finding childcare cover and paying for it is taking a toll on our members, and no doubt many other frontline and key workers, and their families at this time of national crisis,’ she said.  

‘We also have concerns that if early years childcare providers go out of business as a result of the Covid-19 crisis this will have longer term impacts on our members’ work, family lives and potentially widen gender inequalities in the medical profession.’ 

The BMA wants the Government to acknowledge the additional emotional and financial stress that many essential workers have faced while trying to access childcare during the Covid-19 outbreak.

One couple of doctors told how their child’s nursery initially stayed open for key workers but then closed after a week, forcing them to find alternative childcare which was unsettling for their young child during an already stressful time and more expensive.

‘The Government should have realised private nurseries would choose to close if 80 per cent of staff wages were paid after closure - this was clearly going to be the better option financially,’ she said. ‘They should have made plans for a few nurseries to remain open in each area, and not left it up to poor busy parents to work out what to do, with no notice.’

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