Batley and Spen MP Tracy Brabin is urging the Government to listen to the “dire warnings” from the struggling early years sector after new research showed an alarming number of nurseries are being forced to close.
The closed nurseries, which count Windy Millers in Birstall among their number, cited the Government’s underfunding of their 30-hours ‘free’ childcare policy as the main reason.
Ms Brabin’s warning comes in a week during which Ofsted statistics revealed that as many as 52 early year childcare providers have closed since 2015, with more than 40% of providers in England contemplating closure next year.
During a treasury debate in the House of Commons, Ms Brabin explained to the Government’s Children’s Minister the crippling effect underfunding is having on the sector.
Ms Brabin, who also acts as the Shadow Minister for Early Years, said: “The National Day Nursery Alliances’ survey last week exposed the scale of closures caused by underfunding the 30 hours entitlement – a rise of nearly half over a year.
“Bright Beginnings in Stockport said that ‘the reality is we can’t provide Outstanding nursery care on the funding provided’. The Ark Nursery in West Sussex said they were ‘closing because of a decade of underfunding’.
“Windy Millers, in my own constituency, on the estate where I grew up, closed its doors a few months ago due to the same pressures.
“These aren’t outliers. Four in ten providers fear they will have to close in the coming year.
“These are viable businesses that just can’t square the circle of frozen funding and rising costs.”
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.
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.