Agenda item


To receive any deputations notified under Standing Order 12.


The Committee received two deputations in relation to Item 6 ‘Childcare Sufficiency Assessment and Covid-19 Impact and Response for the Childcare Sector’.


Councillor Jackie Porter declared a personal interest at this point in proceedings as a trustee at Kings Worthy pre-school.


The first deputation was from Mandy Adams, manager of Compton and Shawford pre-school.  Mandy addressed the Committee and Members heard that Compton and Shawford pre-school was semi-rural, and over the last 3/4 years, the pre-school had operated at a loss, and as a result there was uncertainty over its future.  Mandy highlighted that the current funding system from Government wasn’t enough as all settings were different, and the ‘one size fits all’ approach wasn’t viable.  Members heard concerns in relation to the layout of the pre-school and numbers of staff/child ratio to ensure safeguarding, and it was heard that there would be more flexibility if the pre-school had larger premises.   


Mandy highlighted that the pre-school was hugely important to the local community, and was also reliant on fund raising from the community.  Members also heard that there was more pressure on staffing in relation to pay and pensions.  As a local community pre-school, it was highlighted that the current early years funding wasn’t viable, and as a result of Covid, there were now increased costs in relation to areas such as cleaning, which would continue into and beyond September.


The second deputation was from Joanne Meharg, Chair of Kings Worthy pre-school.  It was heard that Kings Worthy pre-school has seven members of staff, looking after 49 children in term time.   Joanne highlighted the difficulties between a viable fee structure and being affordable for all, and she explained that early years funding had not kept pace with the rise in costs, and notably wages.  Members also heard that the 30 hours funding has been restrictive on settings to control their overall income generation from hourly fees with restrictions on what can be charged for.  It was heard that few grants fund existing projects, cover staffing and core costs for pre-schools and these are regarded as being covered by statutory early years funding.  Concerns about time taken up on safeguarding cases was highlighted, with every safeguarding scenario adding pressure to already overstretched early years funding. 


Members heard that at the start of Covid, vulnerable and key worker families chose not to take up places offered and the pre-school setting had to close, with families being supported at home. There was also clarification that the early years sector would not receive 80% of furlough funding, and Joanne highlighted the 26% for her setting based on figures for the spring term.  To re-open would mean operating at a loss, with increased costs in cleaning as a result of Covid. 


It was heard Covid had also brought additional needs, used up reserves and highlighted flaws in the current funding system.  Concerns over vulnerable children were highlighted, as well as children with additional needs, and it was heard that Covid had delayed the application for funds such as the Inclusion Fund.  Joanne highlighted the uncertainty as to whether the pre-school would be able to open in September, and the immense stress for staff and also parents, who may be reluctant to send their child to a childcare setting as a result of Covid. 


The Chairman thanked the deputees for their deputations.