Childcare in crisis? 50 Wakefield childminders leave profession in just two years - and Hemsworth has just 3 left in the whole town
There is a serious shortage of childminders across the Wakefield district following an exodus of people leaving the profession.
A total of 50 local childminders have resigned or retired since January 2018, it's been revealed, while only 16 new ones having started during that time.
It's left parents with fewer and potentially more expensive options for childcare.
Paperwork, poor pay and after school care have been identified as some of the factors causing the numbers to dwindle.
Hemsworth, which has a population of around 15,000 people, now has just three registered childminders left anywhere in the town.
Knottingley, which is of a similar size, has just four.
In Ossett, the number of childminders has halved from 30 to 15 in just two years.
The issue was discussed at a public meeting of local school leaders and education professionals yesterday (Jan 16).
Revealing the figures behind the problem, council officer Amanda Jenkinson said: "The numbers we've had starting haven't made up those that are leaving.
"If you're a childminder, you're out on your own in your home. There's lots of barriers, shall we say? It's not easy.
"One of the issues is that people who join the profession find it's very hard work.
"There's lots of Ofsted paperwork to do. If you're on your own it can be quite daunting.
"The amount of income it generates isn't huge. When you can go to work in Asda or Tesco for £10 an hour, people think they might as well do that rather than look after six children at a time."
Her comments were supported by the organisation childcare.co.uk, which runs a childcare directory for parents.
CEO Richard Conway described the situation in Wakefield as "worrying" and said tens of thousands had left the profession across the UK in recent years.
He said: "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."
Ms Jenkinson also said that schools who put on a service to let children stay for a couple of hours after lessons have finished had hit the private sector in the Wakefield district.
She said: "It's not a criticism, but it is a concern.
"If you've got a childminder who picks up three or four children from the same school, they now tend to stay in school.
"I'm not saying, "Don't do it," but it may have implications."
The council started a course for those interested in becoming childminders last Monday, which was attended by four people, the meeting was told.
Posters and flyers have also been put around the district to advertise it as a career.
Local Democracy Reporting Service