Nurseries across Sheffield face 'very real threat' of closure as leaders call for Government help
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Branding the situation an ‘existential crisis’, Colin Davies, foundation director of Hope Community Foundation, which runs Little Ark Nursery near Park Hill, has appealed to Sheffield Council and MPs for help on behalf of nurseries across the city.
He said: “We, along with the majority of other nurseries in the area currently face an existential crisis and the very real threat of permanent closure in the weeks ahead, largely as a result of the impact of the past 18 months, which continues to present a very real threat to not only our setting but to the local and national early years sector as a whole.
“We were asked to remain open through the national lockdowns in order to care for the children of key workers and those who were working hard to keep the economy open.
“This came at a great financial cost to us, as well as the increased risk to our staff, who were not at the time prioritised for vaccinations, with very little support or recognition from Government at either national or local level.
“Our staff are passionate about the children and families they care for, they have worked hard to achieve the qualifications and training they need to be able to do their jobs.
“We are working with some of the city’s youngest and most vulnerable children in one of the most disadvantaged areas of the country, providing them with high quality childcare and early education.
“If we and other nurseries like us close, then these skills will be lost and will cause irreparable damage to a sector that is already under-resourced and under-valued.”
Mr Davies highlighted the strain on the sector, where costs are rising due to wage increases, but funding has not risen to match that.
And he said that the cost of safeguarding measures, as well as meeting the strict standards imposed by bodies like Ofsted and environmental health, are not reflected in the level of funding from the Government that day nurseries receive.
A recent poll the trust ran on social media attracted more than 200 votes from nursery managers across the country, 91 per cent of whom said that they are ‘very concerned about increasing costs of delivery and minimum wage increases’ and therefore will struggle to remain open after March next year.
And June 2020 the Early Years Alliance published their report entitled ‘The Forgotten Sector’ which stated that the early years sector has been neglected and is increasingly unsustainable without appropriate and urgent support from government.
Mr Davies added: “The families who access our provision are already amongst the most affected and hardest hit by the pandemic, and if we are forced to close our doors, they will be hit once again in a very real way as they struggle to find local childcare and therefore to maintain jobs.
“We urgently need swift and effective intervention from Government at a local and national level to ensure that an essential part of our societal infrastructure is not irreparably damaged.”