THE founder of one of the largest day nursery groups in Dorset is pleading for parents to bring their children back as continue to struggle financially, which has been echoed by BCP Council.

This comes as a survey carried out by National Day Nurseries Association found that nurseries across the country face an uncertain future with almost three-quarters expecting to run at a loss until September due to lack of funding and parents not taking their children to these services.

Cuddle Day Nursery, who operate four nurseries in Poole and employ over 100 staff, have had to reduce the number of children in each class from 24 to 16, whilst employing an extra member of staff to ensure surfaces are cleaned and sanitized.

Linda Duly, who set up Cuddle Day Nurseries in 1999, said: “Because we already receive government funding through the free entitlement funding which doesn’t go up year on year, we were told that our staff were going to be given 58 percent of their wages.

“So that has meant from April to July, and probably longer, we have had the majority of our income reduced.

“If parents couldn’t attend, we wouldn’t charge them.”

Cuddles Day Nursery continued to provide their services during the lockdown period, even though they had to furlough three quarters of their staff and closed two of their nurseries.

However, even though they took on extra children of key workers who would normally attend other nurseries, Linda said that, in hindsight, it would have been better for them to close during that period to save money.

The nursery has asked to have access to the local authority’s discretionary grant to help keep them afloat.

Linda added: “Only 40 percent of children are attending at the moment. This is because some parents are scared to bring their children in.

“We understand that children are the most precious thing you can have but if we are still going to be here in the future, we need parents to put their trust in us.

“We are here and open and we want parents to be aware that we are doing everything we can to keep their children safe.”

BCP Council have said that some providers qualified to receive the council administered £10,000 Small Business Grant Fund and in May funding for a Discretionary Grant Scheme.

Providers that did not receive the small business grant are to be “considered as one of the few chosen local groups”, although “not all will qualify”.

Cllr Sandra Moore, Portfolio Holder for Children and Families said: “During the lockdown period many BCP Council providers remained open to look after vulnerable children and the children of critical workers and the council continued to make Early Education funding payments, as per government direction, to all providers whether they remained open or closed.

“The government announced a range of support for businesses, including early years providers, in the form of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, the Self-employment Income Support Scheme, the Small Business Grant Fund, access to a business interruption loan scheme and one year’s business rates relief for those that paid rates.

“The council has a duty to ensure sufficient childcare places across BCP and is proactively encouraging parents to return their children to settings when safe to do so.

"The sector is highly valued by the council and we will continue to do our best to support.”