UK grapples with childcare crisis as staff shortages force crèches to close | Preschool Education

Nurseries in the UK are being forced to close or reduce their shifts at an alarming rate as they struggle to recruit and retain staff, the National Day Nurseries Association (NDNA) has warned.

The crisis will only deepen as more childcare providers go out of business, demand for places increases and prices rise even higher for families struggling with the rising cost of living.

Purnima Tanuku, the chief executive of the NDNA, said: “Until recently, government underfunding was the main reason why nurseries went bankrupt, but now we are seeing more nurseries unable to open because they cannot hire enough staff,” she says. . said.

“Any closure is devastating to local communities, parents and children. They should not be duped because the government has failed to invest in our young workforce.”

Her comments follow widespread industry criticism of the government’s suggestion that nurseries in England could accommodate more toddlers without hiring additional staff.

At a cabinet meeting on lowering the cost of living last week, Boris Johnson raised the issue of reviewing the nursery ratios of staff and children — a proposal labeled “ridiculous” and “offensive” by young child providers.

Tanuku said the prime minister’s plans would likely lead to more qualified personnel leaving the sector. “The suggestion that the best way to help families with expenses is to tinker with proportions is shortsighted. It will put more pressure on the workforce and endanger children.”

About 95% of daycare centers say government funding doesn’t cover their costs and 85% are running at a loss or even break even, the NDNA says. Now the recruitment crisis has reached a level that is forcing many farms to reduce their intake.

Sam Sims, the manager of Rydal Day Nursery in north Somerset, was forced to close the nursery’s nursery for the first time in March, leaving 23 families without childcare.

She said: “We used to have a lot of applicants when we advertised, but today we can’t attract staff and people with the right qualifications can’t get through. Funding for the early years doesn’t cover staff wages, so nurseries across the industry can’t afford to pay more than minimum wage.”

When asked what she would like to see from the government, she replied: “A massive recruiting campaign, recognition of the importance of early years and more funding.”

Lisa Dobbs is an NDNA Network Chair in Wales and runs the Bridgend College Day Nursery. She said: “At our networking events, recruitment is the main concern.

“Some smaller nurseries have had to shorten their opening hours and a well-respected 46-seater nursery has closed in our area due to financial and staffing pressures. Unfortunately, many really experienced practitioners are leaving the profession.”

The latest government figures show that there was a decline of more than 300 nurseries in England between July 2020 and July 2021.

In Scotland, Sharon Fairley, nursery owner and CEO of the Scottish Private Nursery Association, told the… Observer that its members “cannot attract professionals to work within the sector”.

Moreover, people are leaving the profession for better paying jobs as it is a market for job seekers due to low unemployment.

Fairley, the director of four nurseries in Edinburgh and West Lothian, said: “We have room for more children to meet the demand from working parents, but we cannot guarantee that the staff will meet the required proportions.”

June O’Sullivan is the chief executive of the London Early Years Foundation (LEYF) – a social enterprise that operates 39 nurseries in some of the most deprived areas of the capital.

She said: “If you think about how to maintain an already shrinking workforce, easing the staffing of daycare centers could be the death knell for so many people. Employees already feel undervalued and existing funding is insufficient without that extra pressure.

Will Quince MP
Will Quince, the children’s minister. Photo: Matt Crossick/Alamy

“The recruitment crisis is the worst it has ever been. The pool of qualified level three staff – the bread and butter staff – has really dwindled.”

The organization has cut many staff in central London as people have been displaced by high travel and rental costs, she said. And previously 15% of the workforce was European, but many have now left the UK.

Nicole Politis, who runs Portico Day Nurseries, has tried to recruit staff for six vacancies in St Helens and Lancashire, but managed to interview one person in just three weeks. She said: “We don’t get any interest. It has never been so difficult to attract people.”

She says many nurseries are struggling with rising utility bills and business rates. And although they have a waiting list at three of their nurseries, they are unable to accept more children due to lack of staff. “This could jeopardize our free funded places and unfortunately it will be children from low income families who will suffer,” she said.

Official data from Ofsted shows that nurseries in poor and underprivileged neighborhoods are closing faster.

The children’s minister, Will Quince, has said he will not compromise on safety and quality in the pursuit of value for money for parents and taxpayers.

A spokesman said the government was increasing hourly rates paid to childcare providers and had already announced it to £180 million to provide better training and support for staff working with preschoolers.

“We are aware of concerns about recruitment and retention and are working with the industry to look further into how we can support providers in this area.

“Ministers are looking at all possibilities to support parents with the availability and costs of childcare. Any significant regulatory change would be subject to consultation.”

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