Number of childminders in England falls by 10,000 in five years
A childminder reading to a group of children. Photograph: Jo Unruh/Getty Images
The number of childminders in England has plummeted by 10,000 in the past five years, putting pressure on childcare places and raising costs for working parents, according to figures obtained by Labour.
As a result of the drop in numbers, Labour says, there are now 23,000 fewer childcare places provided by childminders in England, and costs for places have risen by 27% since 2010.
In a further blow, the Tories’ flagship childminder agencies scheme, intended to be a “one-stop shop” aimed at simplifying childcare for parents and getting more childminders into the profession, has failed to get off the ground.
Figures in Ofsted’s annual report show that just five agencies are registered with Ofsted, and to date none have childminders signed up with them.
According to official figures, in 2011 there were just over 58,000 childminders; by 2015 the figure had fallen to a little under 48,000. The figures are significant because registered childminders will play their part in the provision of the government’s increased offer of 30 hours of free childcare.
The shadow education secretary, Lucy Powell, said: “This is an embarrassing failure from a government that talks the talk on supporting families but continually under-delivers and disappoints.
“Childminder agencies were meant to be an innovative solution to help parents manage work and childcare flexibly, yet these figures show that the scheme has been a total flop, and childminder numbers are plummeting, driving up costs and increasing pressure on parents to find a place.
“Ministers are wholly failing to ensure parents have access to flexible, high-quality affordable childcare.”
A Conservative spokesman accused Labour of scaremongering, adding: “We are lucky to have a childcare market which is well-placed to begin delivering the 30-hours entitlement.”
The childcare minister, Sam Gyimah, said: “The childcare sector is healthy, vibrant and growing with around 230,000 more childcare places available for parents than in 2009. Thanks to our reforms more parents than ever before are accessing high-quality, free childcare and we are doubling that provision for working parents of three- and four-year-olds.
“By 2019/20 we will be spending more than £1bn extra a year on free childcare, more than any other government, which will incentivise and attract providers to expand, as well as save hardworking families up to £2,500.”
The Professional Association for Childcare and Early Years (Pacey) said it wanted better support for childminders to stay in business and efforts to attract more. Its Building Blocks survey, carried out last year among 2,400 childcare professionals including 2,000 childminders, found that one in five childminders were not sure they would still be in the business after a year.
Among the issues contributing to the dwindling numbers is the decline in the support and training that childminders receive from local authorities. The onus is now on childminders to identify and fund training for themselves.
Training costs have risen substantially, with the cost of level 3 courses increasing from £250 in 2012 to £1,900 in 2015. Other costs including food and heating have also gone up.
At the same time the challenges of the job have increased, with new systems of support for children with special educational needs and disabilities and greater scrutiny from Ofsted.
As a result, some childminders may have moved into alternative jobs with less or no business risk, such as learning support assistants in schools.
Victoria Flint, Pacey’s director of communications, said: “Many women have traditionally gone into childminding so that they can care for their own children at the same time as others.
“The fact that childminders are unable to claim the free early years entitlement for their own children means that there is less incentive for them to do this. If they work in a nursery setting, however, they can claim the free early years entitlement.”
She added: “Registered childminding will play a vital part in government plans to increase free early education to 30 hours a week. Pacey is calling for increased support for childminders both to ensure that childminders already in the sector remain in business and to feel confident about their future, as well as encouraging new entrants into the profession.”
“Courtesy of Guardian News & Media Ltd”
Written By Anna-Marie Owen from here on:
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