The Child’s Play nursery, which has sites across the region, closed its doors on Thursday (March 16) night for the final time despite staff and parents being given no prior warning.
Both parents and staff received an emailed letter on Friday (March 17) informing them the nursery, which has sites in Ferryhill, Seaham and Hartlepool had entered administration.
One parent whose two children attended the Ferryhill nursery told The Echo: “My little girl has been there two-and-half years and she’s gutted about it. She’s really upset.
“They haven’t even had a chance to say goodbye to their friends or the staff.
“We got the invoice for April two days before they announce they were closing. I’m just please I didn’t pay my bill as I’m having to look for somewhere else now and it’s so expensive.”
Meanwhile the company’s 65 staff have been left without pay as their jobs hang in the balance.
The nursery cared for kids from birth.
One now-former employee at the Ferryhill site said: “We found out from the same email as the parents. We didn’t even get to say goodbye to the children.
“It was business as usual last week and they’d been refurbishing the nursery.
“We were due to get paid on Thursday but we’ve had nothing.”
Another staff member who worked at the nursery in Seaham added: “I haven’t slept with the worry about it. I haven’t really ate either.
“We were due to be getting paid on Thursday. I am having to get help off my family but they can only help me so much. They’ve got bills to may too.”
Child’s Play had plans to open a new nursery in Sedgefield later this year and had been refurbishing its Ferryhill site, including buying new toys, as recently as early last week.
The Echo understands administrators are now responsible for paying staff wages.
A letter sent to parents and staff on Friday (March 17) and seen by The Northern Echo said: “We are deeply saddened that we have had to make this decision and for any inconvenience this may cause to parents/carers.
“The past two years have been an increasingly difficult time for small businesses dealing with the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic, the current cost of living crisis, the chronic underfunded so called ‘free’ hours and spiralling energy costs and unfortunately our business is no different.
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“Despite our best efforts to deal with these challenges over recent years we have been unable to overcome them and our business is no longer financially sustainable.
“It has been a privilege caring for all the children who have spent time with us over the years.”
Company director Laura Davies said: “I am sorry beyond words for the abrupt, awful ending. I truly never anticipated or wished this. I’m still in shock and numb. This is so raw and upsetting for us all.”
Last week Chancellor Jeremy Hunt used his Budget to promise up to 30 hours a week of “free childcare” for working parents in England with children as young as nine months old.
But childminders warned they may have to close under the new proposals if they are not funded properly, with Government-funded hourly rates previously undercutting the amount they can earn privately.