Charity warns unregulated childcare providers are 'putting children at risk' during pandemic

A leading charity in Kent is worried unlicensed childcare providers are stepping in during the coronavirus crisis, putting children at risk.

The Professional Association for Childcare and Early Years (PACEY) says it is concerned about the number of unregulated childcare services that are now springing up to fill some of the gaps.

Experienced childminder, Nicki Newman from Totton near Southampton, is urging parents to only use those who are properly vetted and checked.

Parents all over the UK rely on nurseries for childcare, so that they can return to work. Credit: ITV News Meridian

Many nurseries across the South East have temporarily closed their doors since the outbreak began, leaving some key workers struggling to find alternatives.

Some nurseries have also revealed that they are struggling financially.

Hopscotch Day Nurseries, which runs five across southern Hampshire, has had to take drastic steps in order to keep two of their sites going to support the children of key workers.

It had to close its Gosport, Lee-on-the-Solent and Titchfield nurseries and bring all of the children of key workers to Fareham and Botley.

Freya Derrick, who is the Managing Director of Hopscotch Day Nurseries, said: "It would be financially better for us, in terms of the government initiatives that have been put in place, if we just closed our doors. However, we have 28 children here today, that would be 28 children who would be at home and their parents wouldn't be working on the frontline so it's vital we stay open and keep doing what we are doing."

New precautions have been put in place to protect staff and children, including increased infection control at the front door and parents are no longer allowed inside.

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Several nurseries say that after the long term underfunding of early years providers they now urgently need more government help.

The government says it has put in a significant package of financial support for pre-school education and they are continuing to fund local authorities for the 30 free childcare hours even when children are at home and not attending.

The government also said it expects nurseries to take a reasonable and proportionate approach to fees in these unprecedented circumstances.