Nurseries and dental surgeries are falling through the cracks in the Government’s COVID-19 support package and many fear for their survival unless they receive urgent help, Labour MP for Putney, Roehampton and Southfields, Fleur Anderson, has said.
They also face serious shortfalls in safety once the lockdown is lifted – with huge questions left unanswered by the Government on maintaining social distancing in these unique settings and whether they will have PPE provided.
Research by the British Dental Association (BDA) found that over 70% of dental practices report they can only remain financially sustainable for 3 months or less and only one in five believe they can only survive the month. The research also showed that suggests that over three-quarters of dentists will receive no support from Government support schemes.
Private nurseries across the country are facing a similar financial cliff-edge. Last week, Ms Anderson met with 8 Nursery Headteachers and Chief Executives from across Putney, all of which were fearing for their future.
In Wandsworth alone, only 3% of nurseries are entitled to a small business support grant and are facing a massive drop in income over the next six months – despite continuing to have to pay ongoing contracts, rents and bills.
In addition, despite assurances in March that nurseries would be able to furlough their staff at 80% and continue to receive early entitlements funding, in a last minute U-turn the Government last month placed significant limits on furlough funding on nurseries receiving early entitlement funding – throwing financial plans into disarray.
Dr Stefan Cyaprina, a Putney-based dentist said:
“In my hour of need, as I am self-employed, I am not eligible for any financial help whatsoever due to the £50,000 Self-Employed Income Support Scheme (SEISS) threshold imposed by the Chancellor. I fear that I will not be able to survive the next two months, and even worse, that the dental profession as we know it will collapse within this time period.”
Commenting on the Government’s U-turn on Nurseries, one Wandsworth-based Nursery headteacher spoke for all the headteachers when he said:
“We have been hit for six by the Government’s U-turn on furlough funding for nurseries. Early Years funding doesn’t come close to covering salary as most of it goes towards subsidising parents’ fees. All my calculations for surviving this crisis have been scuppered.”
Both dental practitioners and nursery heads are also deeply concerned over PPE shortages and inadequate government guidance on social distancing in their settings. The BDA have noted that the previous service model for dentistry will no longer be viable in the ‘new normal’ and that clearer guidance is needed if Dentists and patients are to remain safe.
Nursery teachers meanwhile have noted that social distancing in an early years setting is near-impossible and that a return to nurseries on June 1st is far too soon. Both parents and staff alike have expressed serious reservations to headteachers and chief executives.
Ms Anderson is due to host a meeting between Nurseries Minister, Vicky Ford MP, and local headteachers on Tuesday, to discuss these issues. Ahead of the roundtable, Ms Anderson said:
“Nurseries have shown themselves to be the fourth emergency sector in this crisis, and without them the UK workforce will not be able to return to work. It is of critical importance that the Government listens to their fears and act urgently. If they don’t, the entire sector is in danger of going under. Moreover, nurseries mustn’t be guinea pigs in the Government’s exit strategy and the safety of staff and children must always come first.”
Last month, Ms Anderson coordinated a cross-party letter signed by 102 MPs calling on the Chancellor to provide urgent support for dental practices. The Chancellor has yet to respond. Commenting on the plight of dental practices, Ms Anderson said:
“Nearly a month on, the sector still faces financial ruin. I am very disappointed not to receive a response to my letter and will be following up with the Chancellor in due course. Dentists are frontline health professionals providing a vital service to communities and many are experiencing immense dental pain and whilst care is suspended and some are resorting to self-medication and “DIY” dental treatment. If the dental surgeries have to permanently close their practices, it is the most disadvantaged families that will be hit the hardest.”
During the COVID-19 crisis, Ms Anderson has been campaigning regularly for businesses, the self-employed and charities and voluntary organisations to receive greater support, for greater protection for employees being told they have to come into work and has been in regular contact with UK embassies across the world trying to get Putney residents home who are stranded abroad.
Fleur has also set up a Putney Coronavirus Mutual Support Group and there are over 1300 members helping each other now, with more joining every day. If you are interested, please go to https://www.facebook.com/groups/PutneyCoronavirus