Dramatic fall in childminders linked to launch of agencies

By Joe Lepper

| 23 May 2014

The government has revealed a dramatic slump in the number of childminders, with 2,149 leaving the profession over the last six months.

Over a six month period four per cent of childminders ceased working.

Latest half yearly figures for September 2013 to March 2014 show the number of childminders registered with Ofsted fell from 53,938 to 51,789.

Over the same period, there were 8,449 fewer childminder places available to parents.

Early years organsiations have warned that the fall could be linked to the government's creation of childminder agencies, which are currently being piloted and are set to go live from September. They are concerned that agencies will push up costs and childminders will feel pressurised to join one.

Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Pre-school Learning Alliance, said: "These declines are clearly a result of poor policy-making, which has created a feeling of real uncertainly and instability within the childminding sector. Add to this the fact that the DfE has seen fit to proceed with the introduction of childminder agencies despite almost universal opposition, and it is clear why so many are opting to leave the sector.

"If the government doesn’t start engaging properly with childminders, and recognising the pivotal role they play in the provision of high-quality care and education, this trend is likely to continue."

Liz Bayram, chief executive of the Professional Association for Childcare and Early Years (Pacey), said the figures should be a wake up call to councils to ensure they are promoting childminding as a profession and as a childcare option for families.

“We know that childminders offer a flexible, high quality service to children and families.

"The figures highlight the need to encourage new entrants to the profession, as well as support for existing childminders to stay in the profession and improve their level of expertise.

"We would also like to see greater support from local authorities to communicate the value of childminders to parents and families, as a crucial part of the childcare market,” Bayram added.

The latest figures come in stark contrast to the modest fall of 840 childminders between March and September 2013.

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