COUNTY bosses have reassured residents over the future of childcare across the county.

Hampshire County Council said despite the impact of  Covid-19 on childminders and early years education providers, the number of permanent closures “does not appear to be any higher than would normally be experienced”.

The news comes as earlier this week civic chiefs at Southampton City Council raised concerns over the future of childcare provisions across the city saying on average Southampton has been losing one childminder a week since the start of lockdown.

As reported, city bosses said there might not be enough childcare places in the city in the future should providers go out of business . But they stressed that this is not the case yet.

However, they warned that should the lockdown continue for much longer the government will need to step in.

When asked whether the rest of Hampshire is facing a similar situation and whether providers are at risk of closure, Cllr Roz Chadd, executive member for education and skills at Hampshire County Council, said: “In spite of the obvious impact of Covid-19 on early years’ providers in terms of a reduction in parental fees for those who have kept their children at home, the number of permanent closures does not appear to be any higher than would normally be experienced. It is difficult to predict whether providers will be forced to close in future but we have been working with them and advising them to review their business models in order to adapt to a changing market.”

She said the council has listened to providers and childminders across the county.

“We raise the challenges they are facing with Government Ministers and the Department for Education to influence change in guidance and business funding”, Cllr Chadd said.

She added: “Among a range of other business support, Hampshire County Council paid an advance of the Summer Early Years Funding  to help ensure continuity of services.”

Earlier this week The Department for Education (DfE)  pledged to continue to financially support early years providers.

A DfE spokesperson said: “We are providing significant financial and business support to protect childcare providers – this includes the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme – and we have continued early years funding to councils, worth a planned £3.6 billion in 2020-21. We have also confirmed that parents that are critical workers normally eligible for the government’s childcare offers will continue receiving these over the summer term even if their income levels fall due to the impact of coronavirus.”