Martin Goss for Colchester

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by leesmith on 14 May, 2024

GOVERNMENT failure in the provision of childcare places has left many parents in the Colchester area completely without options.

Research by the Liberal Democrats has found there are a staggering 331 fewer early years childcare providers in Essex in 2023 then there were four years ago – one of the biggest decreases in the country. The number of registered childminders has also fallen heavily by 289 in the same period.

Their findings were revealed as applications opened on Monday for parents to register for 15 hours of free childcare from September for children over 9 months old as part of one of the Conservative government’s flagship schemes.

The Liberal Democrats said the fall in providers was putting the deliverability of the government’s plans into doubt and leaving parents “without options.” The party is also calling for a review of the rates paid to providers for free hours to ensure they cover the actual costs of delivering high-quality childcare. 

Martin, Colchester’s Lib Dem parliamentary candidate, said: “Free hours are no good if parents can’t find a nursery or childminder for their child – and thanks to this government’s underfunding, many parents now face a near impossible task of finding childcare.

“Childcare provision has been driven to the brink by years of Conservative neglect. Local parents have been left completely without options.

“The government urgently needs to review the rates it pays providers to ensure they cover the actual costs of delivering high-quality childcare and early years education.” 

Nationally, the number of childcare providers, including nurseries and childminders, has dropped by a fifth since 2019, from 61,162 to 48,143. Every area in the country but one has seen a fall in the number of childcare providers since 2019, leaving parents with less choice as to where they can get childcare.

Last month the National Audit Office criticised the government’s roll-out saying that dates for the scheme were decided without the Department for Education or the Treasury understanding whether the sector would be able to provide the number of places needed. It recommended the DfE continuously review the expansion in case it needs to relook at the timeline due to concerns about place numbers and staffing.

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