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'We might have to close' - Early years centre manager slams 'funding crisis'

PUBLISHED: 11:11 20 January 2020 | UPDATED: 11:13 20 January 2020

Katherine Wright has slammed the funding crisis facing the nation, which may cause her centre to close. Here she is pictured with MP Peter Aldous. Pictures: Little Buddies pre-school

Katherine Wright has slammed the funding crisis facing the nation, which may cause her centre to close. Here she is pictured with MP Peter Aldous. Pictures: Little Buddies pre-school

Archant

The manager of an early years education centre has slammed a 'funding crisis' which she claims may cause her to close the group.

Little Buddies. Pictures: Mick HowesLittle Buddies. Pictures: Mick Howes

Katherine Wright, 51, said a lack of funding from central government has forced her to take on a second job in order to keep Little Buddies in Lowestoft operating.

According to Mrs Wright, "massive" cuts to funding since 2017, alongside increases to the national living wage, have meant that Little Buddies has been unable to buy new equipment for its children for three years.

Mrs Wright warned a planned rise in the national living wage (up 51p an hour from £8.21 to £8.72 in April this year) alongside an increase of only 8p per hour in funding for early years threatens the sector.

"I make more money cleaning toilets than I do working with the children," she said.

I make more money cleaning toilets than I do working with these children, Mrs Wright said. Pictures: Little Buddies pre-schoolI make more money cleaning toilets than I do working with these children, Mrs Wright said. Pictures: Little Buddies pre-school

"I just do it because I love the children. But it's impacting me personally as I am having to work from home and have taken on a second job. It also directly impacts the children's development."

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The increase of 8p an hour is part of a £66m 'boost' for the sector in 2020-21.

"It's now been announced the living wage is going up by 51p an hour, but our funding from the government is only going up by 8p per hour. How can I employ the staff I need for that setting when there's no money to pay for that?" she added.

"If something isn't done about it then we'll end up having to close. I'm determined not to let it go but it's out of my hands."

Little Buddies provides day care for 31 children between the ages of one and five.

Mrs Wright said: "We have always had to spend our own money on resources. Other companies donate, but it's hard as they often only donate to charities."

Conservative Waveney MP Peter Aldous said: "There is an acute need for the provision and what is done in those early years is very, very important.

"I personally am not convinced that it is working properly at the moment and I think we need to look into areas like Katherine is working in. Providers like her are suffering and during the election campaign I picked up that message very clearly.

"Katherine is right to raise the issue and it is something I will very much be focusing and liaising on."

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