Eureka! Nursery commence proposed closure consultation process with staff

Posted by Sophie Ballinger on

With recent announcements of restrictions in place for the next 6 months, and an expectation of social distancing continuing even beyond that, Eureka! the National Children’s Museum in Halifax has informed staff that job losses are now inevitable.

Eureka! lost out on more than 140,000 visitors during the five month enforced closure, and then re-opened in August with COVID-secure measures in place, including limits on the number of tickets available to ensure a safe capacity in the museum, and reduced operating days and hours.

Andy Forbes, Finance Director at Eureka! said “Our admission income over the period is down about £1m. We’ve also lost Gift Aid associated with ticket sales, and contributions from our café, car park and museum shop.”

Leigh-Anne Stradeski, Eureka! Chief Executive said “Our August opening gave us an opportunity to assess how we would operate in a very different context from the past and whether there would be sufficient demand from visitors to warrant staying open going forward and on what basis.  This period provided a great deal of learning across the organisation and, with the support of our fantastic team to whom we are very grateful, it went well from both a financial and visitor experience point of view.  Although we were able to reduce our loss for the period, our expenditure still exceeded our income.”

“In light of the significant reduction of visitor income and lack of Government support packages for science centres, the financial situation of the educational charity and UK’s only Children’s Museum is looking extremely challenging.

“We have relied heavily on our financial reserves up until now and have spent £500K, an amount we expect to rise to over £800k by year-end.  The furlough grant has been very useful in helping us to retain staff and phase reopening, however, this grant finishes at the end of October and the Job Support Scheme recently announced will not help us safeguard the charity going forward. Clearly, we need to reduce our costs in order to remain financially sustainable, and this includes a requirement to save 1/3 off our salary bill.”

The trustees of Eureka! have also proposed that Eureka! Nursery, which is an integral part of the museum’s diverse funding streams, will also close at the end of the year after being impacted significantly by an extended period of closure and changes in work patterns, including a reduction in commuters needing a town centre location for childcare alongside increased opportunities for parents to work from home.

A formal 30-day consultation process with staff will now begin across all areas and levels of the charity and its trading subsidiary the 1855 Station Building Ltd., with the intention that the new working structure will be in place for December 2020.

Eureka!, alongside colleagues from the Association of Science and Discovery Centres nationwide, has lobbied the Government for additional support for the sector after being excluded from applying for funding made available for museums, frontline charities, art galleries and theatres.

Eureka! has said that it will provide full support in whatever ways it can to those employees whose jobs are at risk in the museum, and to those who will lose their jobs when the Nursery closes.

Leigh-Anne Stradeski continued “Redundancies are our absolute last resort and, like many other visitor attractions, we’ve tried everything to avoid being in this position. This has been a very difficult decision to make. As soon as we closed in March, our resilience team focussed on planning how to reopen Eureka! safely for our staff and visitors. We were committed to only opening once we were confident in our approach and had put in place all the necessary COVID-secure measures to ensure this. We’ve been delighted with the response from visitors but need to be realistic that with reduced opening hours and capacity limits on the number of visitors allowed in the building, we just can’t sustain our current staff team in the longer term”

“It’s even more difficult coming on the back of some of our most successful years in our 28 year history, which everyone worked so hard to achieve”.

Asked if the redundancies would affect the project to open a second Eureka! in Wirral in 2022, Leigh-Anne confirmed that the project is continuing on track, with major funders already committed to the project re-confirming their continued support, but that jobs associated with delivering the project would be part of the overall restructure considerations necessary to ensure the safeguarding of Eureka! in Halifax.

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