Nearly two-thirds of London’s nurseries and over half of childminders are at immediate risk of closure by the end of this year, a new report into early years provisions in the capital has found.
The report was commissioned by London Mayor Sadiq Khan, who is now calling on ministers to address a shortfall in funding that has led many of London’s more than 10,000 early years providers to the verge of closure.
Moreover, the report found that the number of nurseries expected to close within the year has risen further in disadvantaged areas of London, where 70% of nurseries class themselves as ‘struggling’, compared to 59% of nurseries in more affluent areas.
Khan said: “I want to thank everyone working in the early years’ sector for the extraordinary dedication and resilience they have shown this past year.
“The early years of a child’s life are crucial to their future development and this childcare is absolutely essential to support working parents, but this research exposes the extent of the crisis the sector faces in our capital.
“We know that working mothers are being disproportionately impacted by the pandemic and are more likely to have lost their jobs – the result of structural inequality that has long existed.
“That is why I am calling on the Government to do everything in its power to support these key services, which are vital to London’s economic recovery, a lifeline for many of London’s working families, and a fundamental part of our duty of care to London’s children.”
Childcare provision has been cited as a significant factor in enabling working parents to return to their workplaces, and drive economic recovery.
However previous underfunding of the sector, coupled with the coronavirus pandemic, is leading to the current predicament.
The first nationwide lockdown last March saw a temporary rapid closure of childcare settings in the capital, with those that remained open facing substantial running costs as well as significant reductions in income.
Purnima Tanuku OBE, Chief Executive of National Day Nurseries Association (NDNA), said: “The last year has been a particularly challenging time for early years providers, so the findings in the Mayor of London’s report although shocking are sadly not surprising.
“Our own recent research with private and voluntary nurseries across the country revealed that 58% were worried about surviving as businesses until Easter.
“We have been lobbying the Department for Education and the Treasury to provide urgent financial support for these early years providers who are suffering from low attendance and higher operating costs.
“The Chancellor must take the opportunity of the Budget to outline targeted support to save these nurseries and help them to recover so they can continue nurturing our youngest children and enabling parents to work.”
The Mayor’s office reiterated that Sadiq Khan has provided support to the early years sector throughout his Mayoralty, raising awareness and encouraging take-up of free early education for two-year-olds, funding the opening of Early Years Hubs in some of London’s most deprived areas, and launching Healthy Early Years initiatives across the city.
They added that the Mayor has also written to the Chancellor and the Secretary of State for Education, calling for the sector to receive adequate funding and recently provided business support through the London Businesses Hub.
Neil Leitch, Early Years Alliance chief executive, said: “With the effects of the Covid-19 outbreak likely to be felt for some time, action is needed now to protect the sector.
“We urge the Government to heed the findings of this important report and ensure that all providers, including those providing vital care and education in the capital, are given the support they need to remain viable throughout the pandemic, but also in the years to come.
“We look forward to supporting the Mayor’s office in its continued efforts to ensure this happens, and to build and maintain a strong, high-quality early years sector in London.”
Tanuku added: “The Government must put children first, making sure nurseries can thrive and continue their excellent work in giving all children a promising future.”
Feature Image: Flickr- raider of gin