Childcare crisis: Lancashire lost 11 early years providers during the first five months of pandemic
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Between March 2020 and August 2020, Ofsted Registration data shows the number of early years providers dropped by 0.9 per cent in the county - from from 1,223 to 1,212.
Cheshire West and Chester saw the sharpest fall in providers, losing eight (an overall decline of 2.4 per cent) between March and August.
Wigan was least affected, gaining three providers (an overall increase of 1.1 per cent) during the same timeframe.
Across the North West, the number of providers fell by 61 (0.9 per cent), above the average decline of 0.7 per cent across England.
The overall decline across England suggests that providers struggled to remain viable through the first lockdown, when all but vulnerable and key worker children were instructed to stay at home.
In September 2020, an Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) report warned the first lockdown was "likely to have damaged the financial health of many childcare providers, even after accounting for major government support programmes".
It estimated that a quarter of private sector nurseries unable to collect parent fees during lockdown may have run a "significant deficit", with at least £5 of costs for every £4 of income.
For childminders, it estimated almost 30 per cent who lost parental fees were likewise earning less than £4 of income for every £5 of costs in the early part of 2020.
According to the Early Years Alliance, financial problems in the early years sector have been long-standing, with the group recently accusing ministers in England of "shamelessly [and] knowingly" underfunding the sector for the past decade.
Sara Bonetti, director of early years at the Education Policy Institute (EPI), says the pandemic worsened an "already precarious" situation for the childcare sector, with nurseries already struggling to manage budgets and recruit staff pre-Covid.
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