May 14th, 2024.

There has been a 568 fall in the number of childcare places in East Sussex since 2019, House of Commons Library research commissioned by the Liberal Democrats has revealed.

It comes as applications open this week 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 East Sussex, 568 childcare places have been lost since 2019, falling from 9,201 to 8.632. It equates to a 6.18% fall in the number of places.The number of childcare providers in the county has also seen a steep decline, with there now being 80 fewer than in 2019, a 19.37% 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.

Liberal Democrat spokesperson for Lewes constituency, James MacCleary, (pictured), said: “As a dad with two young children I have first hand experience of the difficulty and cost of finding childcare locally. I have worked with local childcare providers to support them in staying open to continue providing high-quality care and development for local children.

"Many parents are forced to stop working due to difficulties with finding childcare and that's before you even factor in the eye watering costs which are amongst the most expensive in the world.

“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 Polegate, Newhaven, Seaford, Lewes, Ringmer and surrounding areas now face huge challenges finding and paying for childcare.

“Childcare providers are going out of business because the Government pays them a rate for free hours that does not cover the actual costs of delivering high-quality childcare and early years education. They must review it urgently or we will continue to lose local childcare settings.”
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