Despite covid cases in the city being higher than during the last lockdown when nurseries were closed, current government advice is for them to remain open or else lose funding.
Since 7 January, places at council-run nurseries in Brighton & Hove have been limited to vulnerable children and children of critical workers. Private and voluntary providers cannot make this choice without losing government funding for early years childcare places.
Chair of the Children and Young People committee, Hannah Clare says: “We have written to government twice to ask them to consider the implication of their advice to nursery providers - which is in complete contrast to advice they’re advocating for schools.
“How can they deem nurseries to be outside of the rules in place everywhere else? It is especially difficult for young children to understand the premise of social distancing and attendance at nursery still increases contacts between people in the community, including staff.
“Many early years providers in our city that we have spoken to have expressed they feel a huge responsibility for their staff safety at this time more than ever. They feel it is the right thing for them to close to all but vulnerable children and the children of key workers but the Government is insisting they should stay open or lose funding.
The number of confirmed cases of Covid-19 in Brighton & Hove has more than doubled since the current national lockdown started on 26 December. The city now has more confirmed cases per 100,000 than England and the rest of the South East.
Hospitals in the city are also seeing significant increases in the volume of patients with Covid-19 which is putting extra pressure on the NHS.
Opposition spokesperson Cllr John Allcock adds:“In effect, current government guidance penalises nurseries for making the sensible decision to restrict numbers.
“Early years providers already feel unfairly treated. They have not had enough support to manage the pandemic; there’s been no testing and no funding for PPE or cleaning.
“Now – when many private providers may want to make the sensible decision to limit provision to only vulnerable and key worker children in order to keep staff, children and parents safe – government guidance forces them to stay open to all.
“We’ve urged government to reconsider guidance that effectively singles out nurseries from schools and financially penalises providers who, in the midst of an unprecedented pandemic, want to put public health first.”