County Durham’s early years team is working hard to keep provisions open for key workers and vulnerable children during the coronavirus outbreak.
Following a shortage of childcare spaces nationally, Durham County Council is providing 30 hours of funding to any nursery or childminder taking on new key worker or vulnerable children.
The funding will help providers to stay open or re-open and be more flexible in taking on new children quickly to allow parents to go back to work without having to pay extra for childcare costs.
Twenty-two nurseries and 105 childminders remain open across the county, in addition to school nurseries, with many childminders changing their opening times to accommodate shift work, including extended hours and evening and weekend provision.
Cllr Olwyn Gunn, cabinet member for children and young people’s services, said: “It’s fantastic to see how hard our nursery staff and childminders are working to support our key workers and vulnerable children.
“It’s so important that we all work to help each other in these unprecedented times. They’re doing a brilliant job and I thank them sincerely for their skills, expertise, commitment and care.
“It’s also heart-warming to see the lengths that nurseries and childminders are going to for all families across County Durham.
“Regular contact with children and their families will be helping them to adjust to being at home – and make the adjustment back to their nurseries or childminders in the future. It is a source of invaluable support.”
In addition to the funding, the council’s early years team is working closely with providers to ensure parents can access the care they need to allow them to continue working during the pandemic.
In instances where some nurseries or childminders have had to close, often to protect their own vulnerable family members, the team has been helping parents find an alternative placement by contacting other providers themselves.
Childminders are also being even more flexible around picking children up from home where parents are struggling with transport and looking at new ways to support children in their care who are now at home.
By adapting to these unprecedented times, many childminders and nurseries are keeping in touch with their children via Facebook, posting videos of them reading stories and rhymes or sending activities for them to complete at home.
Others are posting videos of their workers so children can continue to enjoy some structure and familiarity, and many are contacting children and their families each week to offer support and encouragement to parents.