Childcare providers in South Gloucestershire shut up shop
More than one in ten nurseries and other early years childcare providers in South Gloucestershire have closed since 2015, according to data published by Ofsted.
The Pre-school Learning Alliance has called for "urgent action" to address a funding crisis it says has left more than 40% of providers in England contemplating closure next year.
Any provider who cares for early years children - from birth up until the August following their fifth birthday - must be registered with Ofsted. In South Gloucestershire, there were 378 such providers on the register at the end of March 2018, 49 fewer than in March 2015.
All three and four-year-olds in England are entitled to 15 hours of free childcare per week during term time. But since September 2017, parents can claim an additional 15 hours if both they and their partner earn less than £100,000 a year but more than the equivalent of 16 hours at the minimum wage.
The Pre-school Learning Alliance argues that the funding the Government provides for the scheme is not enough to cover the costs incurred by providers. Almost three quarters of local authorities in England lost early years providers in the first seven months after the 30 hours scheme was introduced, while 98% have seen a drop since 2015.
In South Gloucestershire, there were three fewer providers at the end of March 2018 than there were before the policy changed in September.
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. Early Years funding is frozen until 2020, and while our costs go up, we’re just told to make it work."
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.
In South Gloucestershire 47 of the 49 providers lost since 2015 were childminders.