Lib Dems reveal shocking drop in childcare places

10 Jun 2024
Three children playing outside on the grass.

There has been a 755 fall in the number of childcare places in Somerset since 2019, House of Commons Library research commissioned by the Liberal Democrats has revealed.

The news comes as applications opened for parents to register for 15 hours of free childcare from September for children from nine months old.

The Liberal Democrats said the fall in providers was putting the deliverability of the government’s plans into doubt and leaving parents in “without options.”

The party is calling on the Government to review the rates paid to providers for free hours to ensure they cover the actual costs of delivering high-quality childcare. 

In Somerset, 755 childcare places have been lost since 2019, falling from 9,680 to 8,925.

It equates to a 7.8% fall in the number of places. 

The number of childcare providers in Somerset has also seen a decline, with their now being 133 fewer than in 2019, a 26.55% fall.

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 DfE 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.

Gideon Amos, the Liberal Democrat Parliamentary candidate for Taunton and Wellington, said: “Childcare in Somerset has been driven to the brink by years of neglect from this Conservative Government. Local parents have been left completely without options.

“Free hours are no good if parents can’t find a nursery or childminder for their child – and thanks to this Conservative government's underfunding, many parents in Somerset now face a near impossible task of finding childcare.  

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