Bexhill parents in ‘financial panic’ due to nursery closures

Parents have hit out at the county council’s decision to close two nurseries in Bexhill, calling the proposed cuts ‘heartless’.

Wednesday, 22nd July 2020, 11:42 am
Updated Wednesday, 22nd July 2020, 11:48 am
Local residents and councillors called on the council to keep the nurseries open when plans were initially announced in May 2019

East Sussex County Council confirmed on Friday (July 17) that Cygnets, in Egerton Road, and Rainbow, in Ninfield Road, will shut on December 31 as part of a wider set of changes intended to save £2.6m from the authority’s children’s services budget.

The proposed cuts were first announced in 2019 before a group of residents and councillors signed a petition urging the county council to reconsider.

The closures were then delayed in May due to the coronavirus pandemic before the final decision was made at the end of last week.

Hayley Amor, whose daughter attended Rainbow and whose son was due to start there in September, said she was ‘absolutely outraged’ by the council’s decision to close both nurseries.

She said the nursery provided ‘outstanding’ childcare, and allowed her to return to work.

“ESCC have a duty of care to provide affordable quality childcare,” said Hayley. “This is vital, especially for vulnerable or working families.

“To even consider closing these nurseries in the first place is ludicrous but to do so during a global pandemic is outrageous. Our local nurseries, childminders and pre-schools are facing major financial uncertainty in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, many unsure as to whether they’ll still be able to operate next year. With parents and carers still on furlough, redundancies, risks of redundancies, it has all led to there being less demand then ever before, yet still very limited or no spaces at all.

“As a family without these nurseries I couldn’t return to work so I would be forced to end my employment. This would put huge strain on us financially. I know many families are fearful that not only will they have to give up work but they would have to sell or lose their homes and be forced to apply for benefits. How is this right? How is this supporting local working families?

“Rainbows have been one of the very few nurseries in the area that have remained open during this pandemic, putting themselves at daily risk to support not just local families during this awful time but all keyworkers’ families, including from neighbouring towns. They never fail to go above and beyond their duty of care and I think that this reflects not only during these unprecedented times but in their newly published Ofsted inspection. Closing these truly outstanding settings and leaving these teams of dedicated early years professionals and the families they support without employment is quite frankly horrific.”

Confirming the closures last week, Celia Lamden, the head of early help services at the county council, said confirmation had been received that there will be enough childcare places for the children in Bexhill. As a result, the council said it would be progressing with the closures.

However, Hayley said her search for another nursery for her son has ‘painted a very different picture’.

She added: “So far, out of ten childcare providers none are able to provide what I need in order to return to work, with many being term time only or being full until at least September 2021. Sadly one of these settings faced closure just last week.”

The county council first announced its plans to close Cygnets and Rainbow in May 2019.

In response, a number of local residents and councillors campaigned, urging the county council to reconsider.

This week, Nikki Collins, who started the campaign, said she has been unable to find a space for her child for January 2021, meaning she is unable to work.

She said: “Our daughter is due to start primary school in September 2021, which means at present, her transition from early years to reception is not going to be a smooth one. Our daughter attends Rainbows 8am to 6pm three days a weeks for 50 weeks of the year to enable both parents to work.

“One of our main fights at the moment is to encourage East Sussex County Council to extend their provision of ownership until August 31, 2021, to accommodate the school transition.

“Quite frankly, without this provision, I will have to terminate my employment, and in the current economic climate that we are in, I cannot understand how a Tory council would want to shut down a provision causing all staff and many parents to be out of work.

“The parents of this nursery are angry, frightened and now financially in panic about either being able to find care while they work, or find transport or additional fees at nursery’s not in our area, that are not just term time only.”

Ollie and Becky Jeffs, parents of children aged 20 months and three, added: “In the times we find ourselves in, it is devastating that the nursery provision at Rainbows and Cygnets is not being extended by a full academic year, for the development and good of these children across Bexhill.

“The claim that there are sufficient nursery spaces in Bexhill is clearly inaccurate and should be reviewed immediately. We face the reality that they do not have a nursery to go in January 2021, and along with many other families, will see an impact on our personal jobs and family life.”

In her letter to parents, sent last week, Celia Lamden added: “I am sorry that this is not the outcome that you were hoping for and I fully understand how unsettling it is to change your child’s nursery settings. The uncertainty about the future of Rainbow and Cygnets has been going on for over a year now and we therefore want you to have as much time as possible to find alternative care for your children.

“I recognise how difficult this period of uncertainty has been for the staff teams and despite the increasing uncertainty that the teams have faced both Cygnets and Rainbow have continued to provide excellent care for children. This demonstrates the commitment that all staff and managers have shown to the children and families throughout.”

East Sussex County Council has been approached for more information.