Agenda item

Early Years - Overview


The Committee considered a report of the Corporate Director of Children and Young People’s Services which provided an overview of the Early Year’s Service.


The Lead Officer Early Years and Childcare was in attendance to present the report and deliver a presentation that provided details of the Local Authority statutory duties; Covid-19 and Children’s Experience in Lockdown; Current Challenges in Early Years Sector; Covid Recovery Programme; Early Yeas Sector Support and National Challenges in the Early Years Sector Enquiry (for copy of report and presentation, see file of minutes).


During the presentation, the Lead Officer Early Years and Childcare referred to the early years provision free of change which was the funded entitlement and clarified that Durham was one the lowest payments which was due to the area cost adjustment. There was some disadvantage metrics within the cost adjustment for disadvantage children or early years pupil premium.


She also advised Members of the tax-free childcare scheme where working parents could receive a payment from the government to help with childcare costs. They had carried out a lot of work to ensure that parents were aware of this scheme that gave parents £2.00 back for every £8.00 spent on childcare costs, this replaced the child-care vouchers linked to salary sacrifice.


Councillor Deinali referred to child care statutory provision issues and how a nursery had closed which resulted in an influx of children at an alternative nursery that caused issues with child ratios and asked if buildings were fit for purpose in terms of allowing children the amount of space, they needed to develop skills and the impact on their development.


The Lead Officer Early Years and Childcare responded that as well as a staff ratio there was also a space ratio and they used indoor and outdoor spaces.


The Head of Education and Skills commented that they needed a better solution for nurseries, and they would love to find more space and were looking at this.


Councillor Varty commended one point family centres and hubs in particular staff and commented that unfortunately retention of staff does not happen in this area.


Councillor Walton commended the presentation and referred to the tax-free childcare scheme where there used to be barriers if there were not enough employees wishing to take up the scheme due to costs to the employer and asked if this was still the case.


The Lead Officer Early Years and Childcare responded that the only difficulty was going onto the government website to see if you were eligible and commented that Nationally the take up was low for the scheme.


Councillor Walton asked if there was an opportunity to engage with employers to say this will not cost you anything.


The Chair asked the Lead Officer Early Years and Childcare if she could share the links to the childcare map and with members together with the Facebook page and library.


Councillor Currah referred to the impact on COVID 19 lockdowns on children and asked if a national report had been produced on this.


The Lead Officer Early Years and Childcare responded that some reports had been produced that she could share with Members but indicated that they were not national reports.


Councillor Deinali referred to the challenges around staff retention and staff wellbeing and that staff are expected to do more in their role and a number of these they were not necessarily qualified to carry out which put more pressure on their workload and work life balance and wellbeing. She asked how they were supporting staff and looking at how they could provide additional resources so that staff can focus on supporting the children.


The Lead Officer Early Years and Childcare responded that they have ‘let’s start the conversation’ where providers got together and what they were saying was that they were having to step in where it would normally be a Health Visitor. She was listening to them and making links with Health Visitor colleagues to say how the system could be changed to support them. With regard to wellbeing, they were still a team who could go out and visit nurseries and be that person at the end of a phone and come up with solutions.


Resolved: That the contents of the report and presentation be noted.

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