According to figures released by Ofsted to Labour MP Tracy Brabin, more than 1,000 childcare providers have been lost due to business closure since 2015.
The figures show there has been a net loss of 1,146 nurseries and childminders from the Early Years Register since 2015, with 15,288 having left the register and only 14,142 joining. Some 81% of those who left the register had been rated either good or outstanding by Ofsted.
Figures released by Ofsted this week show it is childminders where there continues to be a big drop in numbers. There were 42,743 childminders registered with Ofsted as at 31 August 2017. This was down 752 (2%) since 31 March 2017 and 14,669 (26%) since 31 August 2012. Ofsted says the number of Ofsted-registered nurseries has remained broadly the same since March and that the overall number of places offered by early years registered providers has remained “fairly stable” since August 2012 – at around 1.3 million.
The Pre-School Learning Alliance has expressed concern over the fall in childminder numbers and has warned that the new local authority early years funding rates for 2018/19 could see more childcare providers shutting up shop. It has also reiterated its claims that shortfalls in funding for the government’s 30 hour “free” offering for three and four year olds could lead to more closures.
Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Pre-school Learning Alliance, said: “The publication of the new early years funding rates for 2018/19 show exactly why so many childcare providers are so worried about their long-term viability. Despite the fact that we are seeing staff wages, rents and mortgages, insurance costs and business rates all increase, the vast majority of local authorities in England won’t receive a penny more in government funding for the so-called free entitlement next year. Worse still, 14% of councils will actually see a fall in funding. How can this possibly be sustainable?
“We have long warned that if funding rates don’t increase in line with rising early years delivery costs, more and more nurseries, pre-schools and childminders are going to be forced out of business. The vast majority of childcare providers in this country support the idea of free childcare in theory, but they cannot be expected to deliver it if they are suffering a real-terms loss in funding year after year.
“It’s time for the government to act if it’s going to have any chance of preventing a genuine childcare crisis in this country.”
Last week, the Department announced a new ‘Delivery Support Fund’ to help tackle what it described as the “variety of challenges” the sector will face as the year progresses and the demand for 30 hours increases. In a pre-Budget statement, Leitch said: “The government knows that things are only going to get more difficult for providers. But the sector doesn’t need one-off limited funding pots – it needs long-term sustainable funding…we urge [the government] to use this Budget to tackle this issue once and for all, and ensure that this flagship manifesto pledge doesn’t end up as a broken promise to parents.”