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Downham Market’s The Willows Day Nursery closes after Alpha Nurseries collapses – with affected parents and carers invited to drop-in event for advice

A company that runs a nursery in Downham has closed suddenly, leaving parents scrambling to find childcare places and staff without jobs.

Alpha Nurseries – which operated The Willows Day Nursery in Downham's Sovereign Way – told parents it had gone into liquidation on Friday.

Now, Norfolk County Council has said parents and carers affected by the closure can get help to find childcare when it holds a drop-in event tomorrow.

The Willows Day Nursery in Downham has closed. Picture: Google Maps
The Willows Day Nursery in Downham has closed. Picture: Google Maps

Alpha Nurseries said in a letter to parents that it would cease trading on December 29, and directed parents that were owed money to the law firm Begbies Traynor for the procedures on how to make a claim.

A post on The Willows Day Nursery’s page on Facebook on Friday said staff were “absolutely gutted”.

“Unfortunately we've not been given much notice to say goodbye to all our amazing children and families,” it said.

“Thank you all so much for sticking by us through the tough times, I personally am absolutely gutted that it's ended this way and was looking forward to The Willows returning to the fantastic place it could be.

“I hope you are all able to find childcare for your little people, please feel free to contact me directly if you should need any support or recommendations and I will do what I can to help.

“Many thanks, take care..... From Melissa and all the team xx”

The owners of Alpha Nurseries also operated sites in Dereham and Diss, as well as Essex, Suffolk, Lincolnshire, Kent, Staffordshire and Yorkshire.

Parents and carers affected by the sudden closure of the three Norfolk nurseries are now being told they can get help to find childcare from Norfolk County Council and its Family Information Service (FIS), which is available to help any families affected.

FIS offers free confidential, and impartial information about local services and support for children aged 0-19 years (or up to 25 for children with special educational needs and disabilities) as well as matching families up with alternative provision in the local area.

A county council spokesperson said the authority is also working with other providers to see what further support might be needed in each area.

“The council is responsible for making sure there are enough childcare places in the area, it does not run nurseries itself nor own any nursery sites,” they said.

“Alpha is a private business and the council had no role in the closure.”

Cllr Penny Carpenter, cabinet member for children's services, said: “I know the importance of being able to access childcare, as it was a real lifeline for me as a working parent.

“The sudden closure of these nurseries will be unsettling for parents but we are here to help.

“We’re working closely with local providers to ensure that we can support families with an alternative childcare provision.

“If you’re having difficulty finding childcare, please do contact our Family Information Service outreach team on 0344 800 8020, email fis@norfolk.gov.uk or visit www.norfolk.gov.uk/fis.

“Our family information officers will offer support to help you find the childcare that meets your family’s needs.”

Families affected by the Norfolk closures are invited to attend one of the council’s free community drop-in events.

These events will feature members from the FIS, the Early Childhood and Family Service and the Community and Partnerships teams and will provide an opportunity to discuss children’s alternative nursery provision.

Parents and carers do not need to prebook, but can simply attend on one of the dates below:

- Thursday: 9.30am-12.30pm at Dereham Library, 59 High Street, Dereham, NR19 1DZ

- Thursday: 1pm-4pm at Downham Early Childhood and Family Service Base, Snape Lane, Downham, PE38 9JQ

- Friday: 9.30am-12.30pm at Diss Early Childhood and Family Service Base, Fitzwalter Road, Diss, IP22 4PU

For those who have been made redundant, information on early years and education job vacancies in Norfolk is available at Education Job Finder and on the Norfolk Early Years & Childcare Jobs – Facebook group.

If you are a group interested in running a new childcare provision, expanding your existing business or have available places, you are asked to contact EarlyYearsandChildcare@norfolk.gov.uk FIS team.

The council also provides training on the roles and responsibilities of early years committees and is happy to meet potential new groups to offer advice and support.

Further information and support for families can be found online at Family Hubs and Early childhood and family service (ECFS).

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