Cheshire Childcare Availability In Crisis

13 May 2024
Kids drawing on chalkboard

The Great Cheshire Childcare Divide

There has been a significant fall in the number of childcare providers in Cheshire since 2019, House of Commons Library research commissioned by the Liberal Democrats has revealed.

It comes as applications open today (13th May) for parents to register for 15 hours of free childcare from September for children from 9 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 Cheshire East, 765 childcare places have been lost since 2019, falling from 10,297 to 9,532. It equates to a 7.43% fall in the number of places. By comparison, the situation for Cheshire West & Chester residents appears to be more stable with just 67 childcare places lost since 2019, a minuscule 0.67% decrease. However, the decrease in the number of childcare providers is similar across both local authorities. Cheshire East now has 273 providers whilst Cheshire West has 270. In 2019, Cheshire East had 369 providers whereas Cheshire West had 346. This equates to a 26% decrease in Cheshire East and a 21% decrease in Cheshire West & Chester.

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 Democrats Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for Mid Cheshire, Jack Price-Harbach said:

Parents and guardians within my constituency face one of two difficult choices, depending on their postcode. Families in Northwich & Winsford are more Iikely to contend with increased caregiver to child ratios as nurseries struggle to cover costs whilst families from Middlewich face the prospect of reduced provision altogether. This is all down to the Conservative Government’s neglect.

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 Mid Cheshire now face a near impossible task of finding childcare.  

Having spoken to some childcare providers in my constituency, the Government must make three significant changes. First, they must review and increase the rates that local authorities pay to childcare providers. Secondly, they must not allow local authorities to skim a small percentage of the funding off what is paid to childcare providers so that the funding can be allocated elsewhere. Finally, nurseries in England should not have to pay business rates, whilst their counterparts in Wales & Scotland do not.”

Jack with kids

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Notes to Editors:

House of Commons Library research can be found here

NAO Report can be found here.

Please note that provider figures change estimates reflect net change in the number of registered providers - this might not equate to closures as such. For example, a nursery in a given area may have closed but another provider opened a nursery in the same year, childminders may have left the register, but others join to offset changes etc. 

Childcare on non-domestic premises: nurseries and other day care groups

Childcare on domestic premises: Working with three or more other adults on premises that are also used entirely or mainly as a private home.

Childminders; caring for children in an individual’s home (or someone else’s home) for payment or reward. Working alone or with up to 2 other childminders.

Changes in the number of providers may not equate to changes in early years childcare places.

The local authority figures may not always sum to the regional and national totals, as elements of estimation may be included in the aggregated totals to account for missing data at local level.


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