THERE were floods of tears following the shock closure of Safehands Nursery, Stalybridge, four days before Christmas.
Fourteen staff lost their jobs and the parents and carers of 64 children were left without childcare after the parent company, that operates 13 nurseries in the North West, went into administration.
It was the worst possible Christmas as staff were informed late on Thursday, December 20 the nursery would be closing for good the following day.
And parents and carers only learned of the closure the following day, the last one before the Christmas break.
Mother Rachel Biddle, whose three-year-old daughter Kendall Leggett attends the nursery, burst into tears when approached by the Correspondent.
Brushes Estate resident Rachel, whose three other children all attended the nursery, said: “It has upset me and also Kendall who loves going to the nursery.
“I will have to look for somewhere else after Christmas. I cannot now as nurseries are closed for the holidays.”
Clare Shedwick, whose four-year-old daughter Lloris has just left the nursery to attend nearby St Paul’s C of E Primary, said: “Lloris still goes to the nursery and staff took her to school and then picked her up until I got home from work.
“Lloris doesn’t like change and knew the environment at the nursery so it will upset her to leave.”
Clare, a care worker from Brushes Road, said the worse-case scenario will be that she would have to reduce her hours of work as she doesn’t have family nearby who can help.
Nursery manager Tanya Parker admitted staff, parents and carers were “absolutely devastated”, though she admitted she had an inkling all was not well.
“It was still a big shock. Our staff had a meeting with the CEO and area manager who gave us the sad news that the limited company would be going into administration at 6pm on Friday (Dec 21),” she said.
Tanya continued: “The reason why the news was so last minute was that the company had been trying to sell it and they had fought hard to find a buyer and save it.
“As there was no interest, it was the last resort to go into administration.”
The nursery, previously known as Little Craft and Chatterbox, was believed to have been taken over by Safehands in 2007.
Tanya, who had been manager for 13 months, said: “Some of the staff worked here 16 years since it opened so is has been especially hard for them.
“The sad thing is that Safehands were an amazing company to work for. Everything had been put in place and the management was fantastic, amazing.”
Tanya gave her reason why the company may have got into financial difficulty.
She said: “The government’s 30 hours free childcare had an impact as we were not given the hourly rate if we had charged a private payer.
“Some nurseries put on an addition levy for parents to pay as a top-up, but Safehands always resisted that as they wanted childcare to be affordable.”
Tanya spoke about the impact the closure had, saying: “We have babies from birth to five years and parents were devastated. It was emotional and the majority cried with us.
“They didn’t want to take their children to another nursery and we didn’t want to lose them.
“It was an horrendous 48 hours having to deliver the news because it was more than a job as we regard them as family.
“It is all about the children and we treated them like our own, wiping their noses and comforting them when they were teething or poorly.”
Tanya praised other nursery owners for their support by offering staff interviews for vacancies and trying to find places for the children, saying that was uplifting in adversity.