Serious shortage of Wakefield childminders stopping new parents returning to work

A serious shortage of childminders in Wakefield is stopping new parents going back to work, councillors have been told.

By David Spereall
Thursday, 17th March 2022, 5:16 pm
Updated Thursday, 17th March 2022, 5:18 pm

A 2020 report told how there was a lack of childcare places across the district, following an exodus of people from the profession.

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Back then, there were only three registered childminders left in the whole of Hemsworth, while Knottingley had just four.

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A 2020 report told how there was a lack of childcare places across the district, following an exodus of people from the profession. Picture: Scott Merrylees.

The situation has barely improved since and many mums and dads are now being forced to choose between returning to work or staying home with their kids.

Sharon Marshall, a skills strategy manager at Wakefield Council, said the issue had been raised repeatedly as the council piloted a jobs help programme in Knottingley before the pandemic.

Speaking at a scrutiny meeting on Wednesday, she said: “What we found in Knottingley was that that one of the biggest issues was access to childcare.

“You can plaster the walls with all the job adverts you can find, but when I asked the women involved why they weren’t in work, childcare was a barrier.

“People did want to go to work, but there’s a lack of registered childminders.

“Not all of those parents would have been women, but the vast majority were.”

Ms Marshall said that the council had started a childminding programme before the pandemic, but that it had ground to a halt during lockdown because the training involved was face-to-face.

She added: “That’s something we can look at picking up again, but childcare is certainly one of the biggest barriers for people trying to get into work.”

The organisation, which runs a childcare director for parents, said in 2020 that pay and bureaucracy were driving people away from the industry.

CEO Richard Conway said then: “Childminders have a very important job to do but are swamped with rigorous legislation and paperwork that can often be very time consuming and daunting.

“Childminders are usually individuals working from their own home and most of them do not earn a substantial income but do their jobs because they enjoy what they do.

“They also face constant scrutiny from Ofsted, their regulatory body, who inspect them regularly and write reports detailing any shortcomings.

“Ofsted have powers to turn up at a childminder’s door unannounced which can also be a worrying thought.”

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