Nurseries have struggled to access vital government support, leaving them extremely vulnerable during the lockdown.

Many childcare providers are experiencing serious money problems, after seeing their income slump since the Covid-19 pandemic arrived.

This struggle is compounded by the fact that many of them are either not eligible for the government’s grant schemes, or are waiting for money to come through.

Wirral Council has announced a ‘lifeline’ fund of £350,000 to keep childcare providers going.

The scheme is thought to be one of the first of its kind in the country.

The council’s decision document revealed the scale of the problem.

It read: “Following consultation with the sector there is a real risk that providers would have to close as a result of financial difficulty following reduced income.”

The new £350,000 fund will be targeted at providers who have remained open through the crisis, but are not eligible for government support such as business rate relief, the job retention scheme, the small business grant scheme, or the business interruption loan scheme.

All eligible providers can apply for up to £10,000 of grant funding.

The council’s warning that providers faced going under during the pandemic was reflected in the words of Lorraine Krimou, who owns Daisy Day Nursery in Wallasey.

She said: “This crisis has unfortunately resulted in many nursery owners finding themselves to be ineligible for much or all of the support packages offered by government.

“This has been my own experience and I know many other nursery owners share this too.”

Ms Krimou spoke of the “hardship” she has suffered through the pandemic.

She added: “I’m grateful to Councillor [Ian] Lewis [who represents Wallasey] and the council officers for listening and acting on real fears and concerns and securing this money for us to ease the financial hardship we are all experiencing.

“Wirral has delivered at a local level what the sector’s national organisations to date have not been able to achieve.”

Cllr Lewis, leader of the Conservative group in Wirral Council, said: “Many of Wirral’s nurseries are doing a vital role in supporting the children of key workers and we would be lost without them.

“It’s really important that our nurseries survive this pandemic for when the rest of the borough gets back to work.

“This extra £350,000 has been set up to help do that and I’d like thank those nursery providers who have contacted me and the officers of the council who listened to their concerns and acted so quickly.”

Wirral Council has received additional money from the government to deal with the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

But the sums given out to Merseyside’s local authorities have been heavily criticised.

In the first wave of funding, Wirral was given £11.8m, but this was cut to £8.9m in the second wave.

The council said it faces additional financial pressures of £35m due to the crisis, but Birkenhead MP Mick Whitley said that probably underestimated the severity of the situation.

Considering factors including a reduction in revenue from Business Rates and Council Tax to the local authority, Mr Whitley puts the figure at £45m, far more than the government has given to the local council.

Wirral Council has emailed nursery providers in the borough to make them aware of the support that is available.

Paul Boyce, Wirral Council’s director for children’s services, said: “These provisions play a crucial role in supporting parents to be able to return to work as the lockdown situation is eased and means that we can continue to support our key workers to carry out essential services.

“With the sector facing unprecedented challenges, we hope this new grant scheme will act as a lifeline for many childcare providers, including nurseries, pre-schools and childminders.

“Most importantly, keeping these settings running means that we’re able to ensure that vulnerable children in the borough are safe.”