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Devon's nursery care providers struggling

Wednesday, 14 February 2024 08:28

By Guy Henderson, local democracy reporter

Luke Pollard (Image: Philip Churm, LDRS)

MPs call for help from the government

Nursery care providers in Devon are facing a ‘perfect storm’ of rising bills, lack of funds and a shortage of trained staff.

Parents are being driven to return to work to pay bills in the middle of the cost of living crisis, but they are paying for nurseries in what one Devon MP has called an ‘unsustainable position’.

Luke Pollard, Labour MP for Plymouth Sutton and Devonport, highlighted the issues during a debate on nursery provision in the south west in the House of Commons.

Mr Pollard said: “Every parent in the south west should be able to access affordable nursery provision for their children, but childcare bills have rocketed to eye-watering levels, all during a cost of living crisis.

“Some families cannot even access childcare in the first place, as more and more nurseries in the south-west buckle under financial pressures because of a shortage of available staff.”

He said the gap between the government’s promises and reality is getting bigger, and added: “My worry is that the rhetoric hides a really dangerous situation for our nurseries.

“Spiralling costs and a retention and recruitment crisis mean fewer places, more expensive places and a deepening crisis. All that is inflamed by the rural nature of many of our communities, the higher than average levels of deprivation and a worsening housing crisis, which means that childcare workers often cannot afford to live in the communities where they are needed most.”

Torbay’s Conservative M Kevin Foster agreed, also highlighting the effects of Torbay’s hidden areas of deprivation on working families.

He said that while some people had suggested attracting overseas workers to help with the shortage of childcare staff, even that would not help if housing, pay and transport issues were left unsolved.

Education minister David Johnston, Conservative MP for Wantage, said the government is in the process of rolling out the biggest-ever childcare expansion and had launched a new nationwide recruitment campaign.

He said the expansion is ‘transformative’ and added: “Once completed, it will help families with one of the biggest cost pressures they are facing today, saving working families up to £6,500 a year and helping an estimated 1.5 million people to increase the number of hours they work.”

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