Thank you for contacting me about the impact of coronavirus on childcare.
This pandemic has been a difficult time for us all, and I know childcare providers have been put under unusual pressures too. As such I am pleased that throughout the pandemic Ministers have taken significant steps to support childcare providers. A range of support has been made available, including a business rates holiday and continuation of full funding until the end of 2020, despite lower attendance rates. Broader support schemes, such as the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, have also been available to childcare providers.
Early years settings continue to benefit from a planned £3.6 billion in funding for the 2020/21 financial year, to create free early education and childcare places. A further £44 million will be invested for the 2021/22 financial year, which will increase the hourly funding rates for all local authorities. This will pay for a rate increase that is higher than the costs nurseries may face from the uplift to the national living wage in April 2020.
I understand that childcare providers may have concerns about operating during this difficult period. Let me assure you that, as the Prime Minister has said, education settings are not unsafe for children or staff. Scientific advice has consistently shown that education workers are at no greater risk of contracting coronavirus compared to other key workers and professions. There is evidence that younger children are less likely than their counterparts in primary and secondary schools to spread the virus. It also remains the case that the work done already to implement protective measures in early years settings, such as increased cleaning and reducing 'pinch points', has created an inherently safer environment for staff to work in.