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Jeremy Hunt’s ‘paltry sign-up payments’ won’t stop childminder exodus

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Sign-up paymentsfor new childminders will do little to address a crisis in the sector that has seen existing professionals leaving in droves, experts say, as the number of childminders in England reaches its lowest level in a decade.There were 28,500 childminders registered as of December 2022, according to Ofsted data, the lowest number since 2012 and 24% down from the more than 37,600 at the end of 2019.Dwindling incomes in the midst of a cost of living crisis, rising stress levels and increasingly complex needs of families are all leading to the exodus, coupled with not enough new childminders joining the workforce to replace those leaving.Jeremy Hunt, the chancellor, this week announced a £4bn expansion of the government’s funded childcare offer to provide an extra 30 hours a week in term time for children from the age of nine months to two years.

This included the piloting of incentive payments of £600 for new childminders, rising to £1,200 for those joining through an agency.Neil Leitch, CEO of the Early Years Alliance, welcomed the government’s recognition of the decline in childminders, but criticised “paltry sign-up payments”as “unhelpful”.Childminders who contacted the Guardian also spoke of the prohibitively high cost of setting up, suggesting that was putting off others from joining their ranks.“Rather than putting all their energy into attracting new childminders into the sector, ministers would do well to prioritise retaining the thousands of existing professionals who we know are leaving in their droves,” Leitch said.Megan Jarvie, head of Coram Family and Childcare, said that while it was helpful to see recognition of the need for investment to enlarge the sector, “yesterday’s proposals will not help

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