Drop in number of childminders blamed on funding cuts
PUBLISHED: 13:26 30 November 2019 | UPDATED: 13:27 30 November 2019
The number of childminders has dropped for the third year in a row, sparking concerns for working parents over the lack of flexible childcare spaces.
In 2017 there were 179 registered childminders in North Somerset, but today the figures stand at 155 - a 13 per cent decline.
The significant drop in childcare places is worrying for parents, who need flexible and reliable childcare to return to or stay in work.
Amanda King, of Beansprouts Childcare in Worle, said: "It's increasingly hard for childminders because of funding - the rates are so low and what the local authority pay to providers is substantially less than the hourly rate charged and that can be quite unsustainable.
"It's not just childminders, but also nurseries and preschools.
"There's also less support now, but childminders are doing a lot to help themselves now.
"I run a peer network group and we get together once a month to provide support, ideas and professional development."
Government figures have revealed the biggest source of costs for childminders is paying for meals, snacks and refreshments, which take up 41 per cent of their budgets.
This is a significantly larger proportion than school-based nurseries and group providers.
Childminders also incur more costs for training and materials, alongside rising Ofsted registration fees, leaving many struggling to remain financially viable.
The availability of different childcare providers is vital for working parents, and childminders can often offer more flexibility by working weekends, evenings and longer hours to help shift workers.
A North Somerset Council spokesman said: "In North Somerset we are following the national trend and the number of childminders has reduced.
"We are very proud of our childminders, who go that extra mile and attend lots of training in evenings and weekends.
"We have 99 per cent of our childminders with good or outstanding Ofsted outcomes.
"We have 21 childminders who are also trained to work with children with additional needs.
"The central government funding childminders can claim for three and four-year-olds does not match the hourly rate that childminders charge families.
"There is therefore a funding shortfall and some of our childminders choose not to take funded children as a consequence although most do take funded children and then ask parents for a voluntary contribution."