Wraparound care sector warns that demand could outstrip supply in months to come

Nicole Weinstein
Thursday, February 25, 2021

Wraparound care providers have welcomed the news that they can reopen for bubbles of 15 on 8 March, but warn that the future of the sector remains uncertain unless financial support is given

Out-of-school clubs, breakfast clubs, and other  wraparound care can open more widely from 8 March Photo Junior Adventures Group UK
Out-of-school clubs, breakfast clubs, and other wraparound care can open more widely from 8 March Photo Junior Adventures Group UK

Speaking after Prime Minister Boris Johnson released details of the roadmap out of lockdown on 23 February, Clare Freeman, co-director of the Out of School Alliance (OOSA) told Nursery World, ‘We welcome the imminent easing of restrictions for out of school clubs, but are anxious about what the future holds for providers.

‘The sector has had little or no financial support from government during the pandemic, and as a result many clubs have been forced to close permanently, and a great many more are on the brink of doing so. Until demand returns to pre-Covid levels, the future of out of school clubs remains very uncertain.’

Out-of-school settings and wraparound childcare providers are currently only open for vulnerable children and children of critical workers.

From 8 March, parents and carers will be able to access these settings for ‘certain essential purposes’, such as to allow them to work, search for work or undertake education.

During this time, providers are expected to keep children in
small consistent groups, of no more than 15, where possible.

Normal provision for all children will resume from the start of the school Summer term, but no earlier than 12 April.

But Ms Freeman warns that there is likely to be a shortfall in the supply of wraparound childcare in the coming months.

‘Obviously bubbles are necessary because of infection at this stage but providers struggled to operate with the resultant cap on numbers and many have folded.

‘Requests for direct financial support for the sector have been met with sympathetic noises but little action, ignoring the fact that many Government support schemes are not applicable for out of school clubs. Most providers have only been able to access the furlough scheme.

‘What we are going to see going forward is a gap in the supply of wraparound childcare places because we know a lot of clubs have closed. It can take up to six months for a new club to get registered with Ofsted and open up, even when restrictions have more broadly opened in June.’

Some providers have benefited from discretionary grants from their local authority, Ms Freeman said, but it’s ‘very much a postcode lottery’.

Demand for places

Over 11,000 people have petitioned the Government to save the wrap around sector and provide financial support, as they have done for pubs and restaurants.

A YouGov survey of 1000 parents undertaken in February by Junior Adventures Group UK, which claims to be the largest wraparound care provider in the UK, found that 91 percent believe that the breakfast, after school and holiday care sector is an essential service, despite the fact the Government has not deemed it as such.

A worrying 31 percent said they would be unable to do their job without wraparound childcare; 42 percent would need to cut their hours, and almost one third believe their career would suffer.

Pre-pandemic, the wraparound care sector provided support for almost three million children. However, with more parents working from home, furloughed or unemployed, demand for these services have dropped dramatically. As these clubs are entirely reliant on fees from parents to remain open, many have been operating at a loss and acquiring significant debt or have been forced to close permanently.

Renee Bowman, chief executive of Junior Adventures Group UK said, ‘Our sector’s ability to provide essential care for children of key workers and millions of families across the country is at real and imminent risk. The government must not allow our sector to collapse, potentially leaving more than three million working parents without childcare, in some cases, placing their jobs in jeopardy. We need the government to step in now to ensure we can continue providing our vital services.’

Koru Kids, London-based wraparound care and nanny agency, saw an increase in site traffic of more than 100 percent in the 24-hour-period which followed the Prime Minister’s announcement of the road map out of lockdown on 22 February.

Rachel Carrell, founder of Koru Kids, said, ‘Insights from the platform have revealed that this spike in traffic was due to parents looking for wraparound childcare - before and after school hours – to help once they begin returning to the office.’

Children’s Commissioner, Anne Longfield said, ‘Wraparound and holiday childcare helps parents work, helps children socialise and stay active and is proven to boost learning and development. This is particularly the case for vulnerable children, who are among the main beneficiaries of wraparound childcare services.’

Government response

On 26 January, the Department of Education (DfE) launched a survey to a sample of 2,000 Ofsted-registered wraparound providers nationwide, to gain a better understanding of how providers of wraparound childcare have been affected by the national COVID-19 restrictions, in particular the most recent lockdown announced on 4 January 2020, and what this means for the provision they are currently offering.

In an official response to the petition to grant wraparound and holiday care providers urgent financial support, the DfE said on 15 February that it appreciates that the wraparound childcare sector is facing ‘unprecedented financial pressures’ as a result of the pandemic and has made a range of financial packages of support available for businesses to access throughout the current crisis.

It added, ‘DfE’s REACT teams, comprising education and social care staff from both DfE and Ofsted, are also working closely with Local Authorities and will act as a valuable source of intelligence on the sufficiency of wraparound childcare places in local areas.

The collection of this data and local intelligence, alongside the DfE’s ongoing communication with sector stakeholders will help inform the governments ongoing response to the pandemic and how we may continue to best support the sector going forward.’

Timeline for reopening wraparound care

The following information is taken, in extracts, from Protective measures for holiday and after-school clubs, and other out-of-school settings during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, which was updated on 23 February.

‘From 8 March, out-of-school settings and wraparound childcare providers will be able to offer indoor and outdoor provision to all children. However, parents and carers will only be able to access settings for certain essential purposes.

Therefore, from 8 March, providers should only offer indoor and outdoor face-to-face provision to:

  • vulnerable children and young people
  • other children, where the provision is: reasonably necessary to enable their parents and carers to work, search for work, undertake education or training, or attend a medical appointment or address a medical need, or attend a support group
  • being used by electively home educating parents as part of their existing arrangements for their child to receive a suitable full-time education
  • being used as part of their efforts to obtain a regulated qualification, meet the entry requirements for an education institution, or to undertake exams and assessments

As set out in the COVID-19 Response – Spring 2021 guidance, from 29 March, and in line with when schools close for the Easter holidays, out-of-school settings and wraparound providers will be able to offer:

  • outdoor provision to all children, without restrictions on the purpose for which they may attend
  • indoor provision to:
    • vulnerable children and young people
    • children on free school meals, where they are attending as part of the Department for Education’s holiday activities and food programme
  • other children, where the provision is:
    • reasonably necessary to enable their parents and carers to work, search for work, undertake education or training, or attend a medical appointment or address a medical need, or attend a support group
    • being used by electively home educating parents as part of their existing arrangements for their child to receive a suitable full-time education
    • being used as part of their efforts to obtain a regulated qualification, meet the entry requirements for an education institution, or to undertake exams and assessments

The government’s intention is then for out-of-school settings and wraparound childcare providers to be able offer provision as normal, to all children, from the start of the school summer term. This will be no earlier than 12 April, and will be confirmed as part of step 2 of the COVID-19 Response - Spring 2021.

Considering group sizes

Where possible, providers should work with parents and carers, schools and early years settings to ensure that children are kept in a group with children from the same bubble they are in during the school day.

Where it is not possible to group children in the same bubble as they are in during the school day – for example, if only one or two children attend your provision from the same school day bubble, providers may need to group them with other children from outside their school day bubble.

Where it is not possible to group children in the same bubble as they are in during the school day, providers should try to keep them in small groups of no more than 15 children and at least one staff member, with the same children each time they attend, as far as possible. Providers should also ensure any children from the same school are kept together and should only group children from different schools together where it is absolutely necessary.

Group sizes for children under 5

Providers caring for children:

Nursery World Print & Website

  • Latest print issues
  • Latest online articles
  • Archive of more than 35,000 articles
  • Free monthly activity poster
  • Themed supplements

From £11 / month

Subscribe

Nursery World Digital Membership

  • Latest digital issues
  • Latest online articles
  • Archive of more than 35,000 articles
  • Themed supplements

From £11 / month

Subscribe

© MA Education 2021. Published by MA Education Limited, St Jude's Church, Dulwich Road, Herne Hill, London SE24 0PB, a company registered in England and Wales no. 04002826. MA Education is part of the Mark Allen Group. – All Rights Reserved