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Thursday, 15 June, 2000, 08:23 GMT 09:23 UK
Grants for childminders
Childcare is suffering as people leave the industry
The government is trying to recruit more childminders in England by offering start-up grants to set them up in business.

With more parents choosing to go back to work, the government has promised to provide childcare places for all four year olds and two-thirds of three year olds.

But despite the growing demand, more than 15,000 people have left childminding in the past three years - a trend that the government wants to reverse with 4.5m in grants, announced on Thursday by the Education Minister, Margaret Hodge.

One of the reasons many people are put off is the cost of safety equipment, insurance and childminding courses. Pay is also low, with some childminders making just 1 profit an hour.

Cost are high

They will now be able to apply for grants of up to 600 to cover these expenses, leaving more money for wages.

The government hopes the initiative will encourage another 13,000 people back into the industry.

Child care groups have welcomed the initiative but say much more is needed to solve the child care crisis.

The National Childcare Association estimates that 90m will be needed over the next three year to get enough people back in childminding.

The government has made assurances that it is still on track to meet its targets - with the latest grants intended to encourage the creation of more places.

But although the target for places for four year olds has been achieved, there have been doubts about whether the government is succeeding in creating enough extra places for three year olds.

The expansion of nursery schools led to a large number of small playgroups closing, creating an overall loss of places.

In response the government provided a series of emergency grants and commissioned an independent inquiry to find ways of stopping playgroup closures.

Earlier this month, the government published figures showing that it needed to create another 110,000 places by March 2002 to meet its targets.

The BBC's Christine Stewart
"The government is crying out for people"
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