To consider the report of the Director of Children and Families that provides an overview of the Early Years sector in Leeds, within the context of the pandemic and the challenges this has presented.
The Director of Children and Families submitted a report that provided an overview of the Early Years sector in Leeds, within the context of the Covid-19 pandemic and the challenges that this had presented.
By way of introduction to the report, the Executive Member summarised the range of issues which were being faced by the sector together with the actions being taken by the Council to support providers.
Responding to a Member’s enquiries, the Board received further detail on the actions being taken to maximise the availability of funding to support the sector during the pandemic, and the representations being made to Government on such matters. With regard to the number of childcare providers who had received financial support from Government funding via the discretionary element administered by the Council, officers undertook to provide the Member with further detail on this.
Linked to this, responding to a Member’s enquiry regarding the discretionary funding stream that was currently open for applications, and whether any remaining balance from this funding stream could potentially be made available to childcare providers following the forthcoming deadline, officers undertook to look into this matter further.
Members further discussed the continued role played by the Local Authority in making representations to Government in respect of the concerns which existed for the sector during the pandemic, with detailed discussion being given to a number of areas relating to the pandemic where representations had been made to Government, or where views had been provided at the Government’s invitation.
Responding to a Member’s enquiry, the Board received further detail regarding the provision of ‘Little Owls’ and the continued monitoring and adaptation of the business model for the service, with it being noted that the Council’s expertise in this area was shared with the wider sector, as a way of providing support to private businesses during the current time.
RESOLVED – That the following be noted:-
(a) That the childcare sector has faced significant challenges during the Covid-19 pandemic – in relation to finances, demand for places and the ability to provide the stimulating learning environment providers aspire to due to the safety measures, restrictions, guidance and advice in place;
(b) That there is concern both nationally and locally that the childcare market disruption is likely to have ongoing and long term impacts on the sector, with regard to parental engagement with childcare and early learning, the sustainability of childcare provider businesses and subsequently the sufficiency of early learning and childcare places;
(c) That the Local Authority continues to support the sector through ongoing communication and advice, amending funding approaches wherever possible in line with Department for Education (DfE) advice to offer financial support to providers;
(d) That the Local Authority will continue to lobby and advocate for the sector with regard to the need for adequate funding, in recognition of the crucial importance of the sector for children’s development and as a key plank of the economy;
(e) That the Local Authority will continue to lobby and advocate for the sector with regard to being recognised and included in Covid-19 recovery plans; e.g. staff being included within priority groups for vaccinations, access to adequate PPE and timely communication from central Government to the sector.