Children’s Minister sparks anger over childminders comment
It is a sad truth that the number of childminders has been in a long term decline for decades, dropping from highs of over 100,000 in the early 90s to under 34,000 today. Many factors like behind this shift, ranging from increased availability of nursery places, to the challenges of running a childminder business. However, childminding remains widely recognised as a key component of the early years sector and moreover, one that delivers high quality provision on a par with any other childcare setting.
It is no wonder then that Children and Families Minister, Vicky Ford, has attracted criticism for her comments in relation to the falling overall number of childcare providers. In response to a question from Labour MP Tulip Siddiq, in which she claimed that falling numbers were due to a lack of financial support, the minister said:
The Ofsted data from March shows a 4 per cent dip in the number of childcare providers since 31 August, which is largely a fall driven by childminders and carers, not nursery settings.
Sufficiency is the key measure and we have not had any reports of sufficiency issues in early years settings since they reopened in June 2020. We put £3.5 billion into our early years entitlements because we care about childcare.
It is true that the number of places offered by the childcare sector has not significantly decreased due to nurseries increasing in size, but sector voices argue that this answer misses the point. Childminding is sought after by parents and the fact that numbers are dropping should not be casually dismissed. Doing so reflects a long running grievance that childminders often feel that their professionalism is not sufficiently recognised by those in power.
At the time of writing, Ms Ford has not commented further on the matter.