Plaid Cymru have called for extra support and protection for the childcare sector and its workforce across Wales amid the Coronavirus crisis.
Schools in Wales closed for statutory education provision on Friday and schools and childcare settings for younger children remain open only for children of key workers.
To support the sector, Welsh Government has said it will continue to pay settings currently accessing funding through the childcare offer, even if a child is not attending.
However, Plaid Cymru Shadow Education Minister Sian Gwenllian AM said the funding offer only represents a “proportion” of the sector’s income with sources of income “varying considerably” amongst the different types of childcare settings.
Ms Gwenllian pointed out not all childcare settings were classified as businesses with many operating as not for profit or social ventures and there was a lack of clarity on whether they too would be able to qualify for the measures put forth by the Chancellor and Welsh Government.
Ms Gwenllian called for additional support and clarity on what support was available.
The Shadow Education Minister also said testing should be expanded to include childcare workers with temperature checks for both staff and children.
Ffalabalam nursery in Bangor is one of the childcare settings that has said they are “increasingly concerned” about the “impending financial crisis” and consequences for their business.
Shadow Education Minister Sian Gwenllian AM said,
“Childcare workers are now rightly recognised as key workers and will play as invaluable role in ensuring other key workers can continue working on the frontline of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“The Welsh Government’s financial offer is certainly to be welcomed however this funding represents only a proportion of the sector’s income, with sources of income varying considerably amongst the different types of settings.
“There are also concerns that the complexity of the sector means the business support currently offered by Welsh Government will not cover all types of settings, or that some providers will not receive as much support as others. Of particular concern are those who are self-employed such as childminders, agency staff and workers on zero-hours contracts.
“There must be more clarity on the financial support available for all, more information on accessing that funding, and co-ordination between all levels of government and all types of provision – private, voluntary and in schools, to ensure all receive parity of support.
Menna Jones, Director of Ffalabalam said,
“Due to the current situation, we are becoming increasingly concerned about the impending financial crisis for our business.
“The government has put in place legislation and toolkits to support small and medium sized businesses during these uncertain times. However, there is no guarantee that we as a nursery will fall into the category of an assisted group - and even then this financial support is unlikely to arrive immediately. As a business we already feel a detrimental effect on the cash flow and sustainability of the business.
“The government must release the funding that’s available to support us and do so quickly so we have a chance of surviving the current challenges. How can we look after the children of key workers if we have to close down?
Shadow Education Minister Sian Gwenllian AM added,
“Welsh Government should also increase and expand its testing measures to locate and isolate cases of the virus. Given that many children will be those of parents working on the front line, access to testing will be paramount – that should include temperature checks for staff and children, and strict exclusion advice followed should anyone display signs or symptoms of the virus.
“The childcare sector and its workforce are on the frontline of this crisis and we want to support and thank them for their swift response to this crisis. We will continue to rely on their work when the crisis is over.