Wigan childminder reveals impact of pandemic on her business

A Wigan childminder says she is committed to caring for the youngsters of key workers - despite the impact the coronavirus pandemic is having on her business.
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Claire Burrows has been looking after children at her home in Winstanley since 1996 and works alongside her daughter Lauren Sproat, who is also a registered childminder.

They can only care for the children of key workers during the Covid-19 crisis, meaning they have two or three children each day instead of the six they used to have.

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But they are determined to keep working so the parents can too. They can include healthcare staff, police officers and dental workers.

Childminders Claire Burrows and Lauren SproatChildminders Claire Burrows and Lauren Sproat
Childminders Claire Burrows and Lauren Sproat

Claire, 47, said: “I think we are doing a really important job, because if we don’t support them, they couldn’t go to work. They have no-one else to fall back on.

“They can’t go to grandparents, if they have them, because they are vulnerable people and can be at risk.

“I could have said I am not willing to put myself and my family at risk. We have taken as many precautions as we can. We are washing hands as often as we can and parents aren’t allowed in the setting - they are dropping off at the gates unless they are under 18 months.”

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Social distancing measures mean that Claire and Lauren, 23, each run the business for half of the week, so they are not working together.

Of course, a reduction in the number of children being cared for does mean the business has seen a drop in its income.

Around one-third of the money that Claire and Lauren receive is used to pay for things such as food for the children and craft supplies for activities.

Claire said: “We have asked parents to voluntarily contribute a retainer fee so we can keep our business open, because otherwise it will be a case of not being able to continue this in the future and getting jobs elsewhere. We have got no income other than what we are earning.

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“Quite a few of our parents have been open to that, but we have had some parents who have given notice and can’t pay anything.”

The mother and daughter are also waiting to find out what support they will receive from the Government’s scheme for self-employed workers.

Childcare platform Yoopies published a report outlining the impact of the pandemic on childcare providers, revealing the situation in the childcare sector.

It found that since the lockdown began, 50 per cent of childcare providers have been able to work, with 89 per cent of them working for families in which one or both parents were key workers.

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Childminders were the only category of workers in which more than half of staff were still working. But they were the group least likely to be paid their full rate, with one-quarter receiving a partial salary and some even working for free.

Some were reported to say they felt “undervalued”, did not know if they would be eligible for Government funding and feared for their futures.

Despite the loss of income and risks posed by coronavirus, many childminders wanted to keep working to allow essential staff to remain on the frontline.

But Claire admits she is worried about her business and says others have left behind their profession.

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“We will continue looking after children in the future,” she said, “but I know a lot of childminders are either saying they will not return to it in the future or others saying they won’t return until September when hopefully we will have returned to some kind of normality.

“There are some childminders who have said they can’t stay open. They can’t continue this profession because they have no money coming in.”

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