Parents who have paid into childcare voucher schemes are being denied refunds by their employers, despite not being able to use the vouchers during lockdown. Some say they have built up balances of more than £1,000.
Although the tax-efficient scheme closed to new applicants in October 2018, those who have already signed up are able to continue to buy the vouchers. In financial terms, if two parents contribute the maximum, vouchers could cut the cost of childcare by £1,866 a year, according to the scheme.
But with childcare providers closed over lockdown, many parents have built up a surplus of vouchers they now can’t use in the future — this could be because their children are starting school in September. It has been reported that when some parents have asked employers for their money back, they have been told no.
One provider Sodexo, says: ‘Refunds are not possible under salary sacrifice contracts.
Another, Fideliti Childcare Vouchers, says: ‘Childcare vouchers are non-refundable and can only be used to pay for childcare, so you should only order vouchers you are able to use.’
Early Years Vouchers says no refunds are made to employees under ‘normal circumstances.’
HMRC says refunds are at the employer’s discretion, adding that they would need to deduct the appropriate tax and National Insurance.
The full story, as reported by thisismoney.co.uk can be found here.
A “perfect storm” of rising childcare costs and providers closing down could make it “impossible” for some parents to return to work amid the coronavirus pandemic, Labour says.
The opposition party says childcare costs in England have risen up to three times as fast as wages since 2010 and is calling on the government to “urgently provide targeted support” to the childcare sector.
In response, the government said the sector had received “significant” support.
Since 1st June, when early years providers have been allowed to open to all children, the government has said people who can, no longer have to work from home. However, Labour warns that many parents will struggle to return to workplaces without adequate childcare, particularly if families cannot rely on grandparents for help due to the virus.
It says “long-term underfunding and a lack of targeted support during the coronavirus pandemic, will make it impossible for many providers to remain viable”.
The party refers to research carried out by Early Years Alliance which found that 25% of childcare providers in England are at risk of closing in the next year.
Last month, the alliance also published data suggesting that since reopening nurseries have only been operating at 37% of their capacity, creating financial pressure for providers.
Labour’s shadow education secretary Kate Green said: “Ordering parents back to work without allowing them to access the childcare they need is a stark reminder that Boris Johnson is completely out of touch with the needs of working families.”
The full story, as reported by the BBC can be found here.
In response to alleged unfair practices caused by COVID-19 disruptions, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) published an open letter to the early years sector, on the subject of dealing with parents (consumers) during the pandemic.
The guidance has been released so that childcare providers understand their obligations, under common law, towards parents.
In summary, charging parents cancellation fees, retainers and usual fees during lockdown when nurseries were unable to open, are some of the areas addressed in the letter; and in conclusion, the CMA has decided not to take any enforcement action. However, it will continue to monitor the sector.
The letter also states that the Authority is unlikely to challenge any voluntary arrangements which were agreed between parents and settings, providing parents weren’t pressured into agreeing out of fear that they may risk losing their child’s place or even that the setting may go out of business.
The CMA states; “Whilst the CMA recognises that during the crisis most nurseries and day care businesses are trying to do the right thing under unprecedented circumstances and pressures, at the same time consumers (parents) deserve to have their rights protected. This work is not meant to disrupt any agreements fairly and mutually agreed between parents and early years businesses, but is intended to provide clarity on how consumer law applies to COVID-19 disruptions.
The CMA is therefore asking providers to consider their contracts and arrangements with consumers and take any necessary steps to ensure they comply with the law.”
Purnima Tanuku, Chief Executive of National Day Nurseries Association (NDNA) commented on the letter, saying: “We are pleased to have had the opportunity to work with the CMA to support them to understand the issues faced by the early years and childcare sector ahead of issuing advice and guidance to providers. The CMA has taken time to listen and understand the immense pressure providers were and still are under and recognised this in the context of consumer law.
“During lockdown, settings were forced to close to all but vulnerable children and those of key workers and had severe limits on their income. We supported members with approaches to parents about voluntary contributions. We know that the vast majority of our members have not charged parents during lockdown or have asked for small contributions.
“These have been very challenging times for parents and providers. We welcome the fact that the CMA has decided to issue advice to the sector on staying within the regulations and understanding their obligations so that parents and providers get the best results, rather than take enforcement action.
“We are now working to produce further advice for our members as well as parents and will be issuing this as soon as it is ready for publication.”
The CMA letter can be read in full on the government website here.
Press release from Little Adventurers nursery and preschool.
Little Adventurers held their Annual Staff Awards evening ‘virtually’ via zoom! The Nursery’s Management Team feel so strongly about showing their team just how much they value them that they had to think creatively this year as they couldn’t hold their usual awards altogether in the nursery due to the current ways of ‘bubble’ working in this Covid world.
“Like so many businesses, virtual meetings have become the norm and so we decided that this year we would recognise our brilliant team by holding the awards ceremony over the internet. Taking the time for events such as this, especially after all their hard work both during the pandemic lockdown and since our return to full operations is a vital part of how we run our nursery,” said Chris Ford, Business Development Manager of Little Adventurers. “Colleagues also praised one another for their skill, talent and personal qualities they bring to the nursery. It was a wonderfully uplifting evening and I think our staff get a lot from it.”
Speaking after receiving her award, youngest member of the team, Nursery Apprentice, Jess who is nearing the end of her Level 3 apprenticeship said, “Everyone has been so welcoming and friendly and it’s been an amazing experience. I can’t wait to continue my time as a qualified practitioner here at Little Adventurers.”
Chris continued, “Jess has been an outstanding example of just how successful an apprenticeship can be. She is willing to learn, a great team player and has a fantastic rapport with our children. She comes to work smart and tidy with a smile on her face ready to engage the children with new adventures everyday. We are so proud of her and confident that she will go far and become a model practitioner in the years to come.”
“Jess is very nearly qualified and the search is now on for a new apprentice to join us. Anyone interested in applying should contact the nursery as soon as possible as we are shortly holding interviews,” explained Chris.
This individual and flourishing family run nursery in Cranham, Upminster is enjoying huge success, having won many awards and achievements since opening in 2015. Last year, nursery manager, Ginny Andreas scooped UK Nursery Manager of the Year Award from Nursery World along with the nursery’s work on encouraging healthy lifestyles winning a top 6 UK Award for Health and Wellbeing.
“Supporting children’s health and wellbeing and laying down healthy foundations for the future has never been more important and is a core part of our ethos,” Ginny explained. “We have so many initiatives for both our little ones and their families and our mascot, Paddington Bear helps us explain this to children. We include ‘wake and shake’ sessions in our daily routine and encourage lots of physical activity through play alongside lots of community visits to the local park and woodland area nearby. Playing and learning outdoors is so important as it opens up a whole new world for children to explore. We take the recommendations of The British Heart Foundation very seriously which recommends that every child under 5 has 180 minutes of activity per day.”
Nutrition is another area that the nursery take very seriously. “We work with an early years nutritionist to develop optimum nutrition menus– this ensures that everyday our menus are offering 100% of recommended nutrients for young children. All food is cooked fresh from scratch everyday by our nursery cook, Tina and ingredients are always high quality and fresh. We also share this nutritional information with parents in our parent forums and our monthly newsletters,” explained Chris. “Lee Stimpson, Our Nursery Director is passionate about developing our nursery to be the very best it can possibly be for our little ones and excellent nutrition is a very important part of children’s development.”
Little Adventurers have recently completed their new garden room which has meant they now have a few limited number of places available. They are holding an Open Day for parents on Saturday 1st August (subject to availability and by appointment only) and anyone interested should contact the nursery on 01708 227657 to book their slot.
Little Adventurers Nursery is based in Upminster, Havering.
Awards & Achievements since opening in 2015
• 2019 Nursery World Award Winner – Nursery Manager of the Year
• Health and Wellbeing Award – Top 6 UK Finalist Nursery World Awards 2019
• Healthy Early Years London Bronze, Silver and Gold Awards
• Top 20 Nursery London Award (2018 & 2019)
• Apprentice Employer of the Year Award 2017
• Nursery World – best practice feature 2018
• Early Excellence – film of best practice for early years
• Sing and Sign affiliated nursery – Nationally recognised programme which encourages communication with babies
Little Adventures Nursery is a member of the National Day Nurseries Association
Teachers at Mereworth CP School recreated Wimbledon for the enjoyment of its year six pupils last week. The sporting event attracted the attention of BBC’s The One Show and presenter Richie Anderson who was thrilled to be a part of event. The children even enjoyed real Wimbledon strawberries donated by nearby soft fruit grower, Hugh Lowe Farms.
A mini centre court was constructed from hazard tape and a covered stand for the pupil spectators was erected in the middle of the playing field. It was a very warm day as the teachers nervously awaited the call. The Head Teacher, Amanda Lavelle, strictly umpired the match from her raised chair as the year 6 staff played a nail-biting match. The spectators, children from classes 6A and 6B, enthusiastically supported their own teachers, as the film cameras rolled.
During the break, copious amounts of strawberries were devoured by the grateful pupils who agreed that they were the tastiest they had ever experienced. BBC presenter Richie Anderson interviewed the children about the fruit. The children unanimously agreed the tennis was excellent and the strawberries were the sweetest they had ever tasted. Richie continued to provide a running commentary as the teachers concluded the match and the umpire announced the winners.
Head Teacher Amanda Lavelle commented, “We wanted to give the year six pupils something really wonderful to remember us by. We are so proud of how all of our pupils have handled the complications of the past few months.
This was a really special occasion. It is such a pleasure to support nearby soft fruit grower, Hugh Lowe Farms that work so closely with our school. They have grown the strawberries for Wimbledon for 26 years, and this mini Wimbledon took the honours as the 27th occasion….minus the superstars and the prize money!”
Hugh Lowe Farms has supplied The Championships for 26 years. The visitors to Wimbledon eat over 30 tonnes of strawberries over the fortnight. Hugh Lowe Farms is a family run soft fruit grower established over 125 years ago located in Mereworth in Kent, the Garden of England. The farm produces over 5,000 tonnes of fresh berries a year between April and November.
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