Can Out of School Childcare recover from COVID?
From financial sustainability surveys conducted in three of the the four UK nations, the economic impact on school age childcare services of enforced closure through lockdowns, restricted operating guidance, parents continuing to work from home and self-isolating staff is clear: many school age childcare services are facing permanent closure. We already know some services were unable to re-open after lockdown whilst others, although currently operating, are juggling low numbers of children (fees being the main, and sometimes only, income source) with increased costs, meaning their ability to continue is in question.
During the most intensive periods of the COVID pandemic, like other businesses, school age childcare services were able to access business support through the furlough scheme but this came to an end in October 2021. Some additional funding was made available to services in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales, however this only (partially) supported services during the periods of enforced closure and severe opening restrictions.
Services have been highlighting that although they may be currently operating, without immediate and additional financial support, they may well be forced to close within the next few weeks or months: financial projections show that they are unsustainable and with redundancies and other costs to cover, the end is not far away. In some instances, this means if a large provider operating from several sites closes, children and families will be suddenly left without school-age childcare within a wide geographical area. What impact will this have on the social and emotional wellbeing of children, ability of parents to work or access training and education opportunities, and the wider economy both locally and nationally?
Although it's clear that the nature and delivery of school age childcare services may need to change for longer-term survival, this will take time: future structures require solid foundations and unfortunately the basis for the future is crumbling before our eyes.
Read the most recent financial school age childcare financial sustainability surveys from the different UK Nations:
Scotland - Scottish Out of School Care Network
Snapshot Financial Sustainability Survey of the School Age Childcare Sector, Autumn 2021
Wales - Clybiau Plant Cymru Kids' Clubs
Demand for Childcare State of the Out of School Childcare Sector, September 2021
England- Out of School Alliance
Coronavirus Survey Report, November 2020