Wessex FM News

Childcare providers in Dorset shutting up shop

child nursery

Published at 8:44am 14th September 2018.

More than one in six nurseries and other early years childcare providers in Dorset have closed since 2015, according to data published by Ofsted.

It's one of the biggest drops in providers seen by any local authority in England.

All three and four-year-olds in England are entitled to 15 hours of free childcare per week during term time.

The Pre-school Learning Alliance argues that the funding the Government offers for the scheme isn't enough to cover the costs incurred by providers.

Any provider who cares for early years children - from birth up until the August following their fifth birthday - must be registered with Ofsted.

In Dorset, there were 390 such providers on the register at the end of March 2018, 83 fewer than in March 2015.

Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Pre-School Learning Alliance, said the new scheme had "further exasperated" funding problems already experienced by providers under the 15 hours scheme.

He added: "There has never been any such thing as free childcare. It’s subsidised childcare.

The drop in childminders, who care for small numbers of children at a time, has been particularly sharp, accounting for 85% of the more than 9,000 providers lost in England since 2015.

It was a similar picture in Dorset, where 66 of the 83 providers lost since 2015 were childminders.

Nadhim Zahawi, Minister for Children and Families, said it was "normal in a private market" for providers to join and leave the Ofsted register.

He continued: “We want every child to have the best start in life, and it is great that more than 340,000 children have benefited from a 30 hours place in its first year."

The Government is also supporting new childcare providers by providing grants to reimburse them for some of the costs of setting up their businesses, he added.

"Early Years funding is frozen until 2020, and while our costs go up, we’re just told to make it work."

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