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Many people are concerned about the Government advice on childcare access given the lockdown. Here we give the latest Government position.
workingmums.co.uk is receiving a lot of questions about childcare in connection to the shutdown and many people are not clear on what they can do. This is the latest information from the Government:
These are being asked to be as flexible as possible to cover key workers’ hours. There are reports of many closing due to a lack of children or staff. In that case you should contact your local authority for advice on where the nearest open childcare/school facility is. If key workers are able to look after their children at home they should. They do not have to use these childcare providers.
For information on nannies, click here.
On informal childcare, the Government says those who are vulnerable, eg, those who have been told to isolate for 12 weeks, should not look after children. It states: “When making alternative arrangements, parents should not rely for childcare upon those who are advised to be in the stringent social distancing category, such as grandparents [ie older people over 70 regardless of medical need] or friends or family members with underlying conditions.” That includes pregnant women.
When asked about younger grandparents who are not at risk and other informal childcare, a spokesperson from the Department for Education said: “We have asked nurseries and other childcare providers to close except for the children of critical workers and vulnerable children, as part of our efforts to fight the spread of coronavirus.
“The government has put a range of measures in place to support providers including continuing to fund free entitlements even if children are not attending, a business rate holiday for private providers, and the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme to support workers.
“We are monitoring the availability of provision, including for NHS staff. If critical workers do not have access to their usual childcare place, they should contact their local authority to arrange an alternative.”
It also provided the following background information:
“If employees need time off for childcare or to make new arrangements because their school has closed, they can use:
There’s no statutory right to pay for time off for dependents, but some employers might offer pay their workers depending on the contract or workplace policy.
Businesses can also consider furloughing staff where possible, as HMRC will reimburse 80% of their wages, up to £2,500 per month, under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.”
Updated guidance on the Government’s website now states: “If you are unable to work, including from home, due to caring responsibilities arising from coronavirus (COVID-19), such as caring for children who are at home as a result of school and childcare facilities closing, or caring for a vulnerable individual in your household, then you should speak to your employer about whether they plan to place staff on furlough.“
It is unclear, however, if furlough applies to those whose wages are paid through public funding.
If successful, funds will start from the day an employee is placed on furlough, which can be backdated to 1 March 2020. Employees who are shielding themselves or need to stay home with someone who is shielding and cannot work can also be placed on furlough leave.
Another option is to take unpaid parental leave. Parents who claim this to look after children can take up to four weeks a year per child and some may be entitled to benefits during that period – see https://workingfamilies.org.uk/articles/can-i-claim-benefits-if-i-take-parental-leave-or-shared-parental-leave-2/
Working tax credit can continue for the first 28 weeks you are off work if you are self-employed and you get Employment Support Allowance or would be eligible for it or Statutory Sick Pay if you were an employee. If not, your tax credits will stop after four weeks. If you are not working enough hours for more than four weeks, you might also stop getting the childcare element of WTC. Let HMRC know if your circumstances change.
The Government has also announced a £20 per week increase to the Universal Credit standard allowance and Working Tax Credit basic element and an increase in the Local Housing Allowance rates for Universal Credit and Housing Benefit claimants so that it covers the cheapest third of local rents.
Also, it says that tax credits will continue to be paid even if people are working fewer hours or furloughed due to COVID-19.
With regard to fees, the Government says it is continuing to pay early years funding to childcare providers eg to support the 30 hours free childcare. It is also offering financial help for nurseries to cover costs, including a business rates holiday for one year, grants and access to the Job Retention Scheme.
For the self-employed (including childminders) the Government has announced an income protection scheme covering 80% of earnings of up to 2.5K pounds a month.
On continuing to charge parents fees for childcare if they are not earning, the Government says it urges all childcare providers to be reasonable and balanced in their dealings with parents and to access any financial support on offer.
More information – click here.
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