A ‘SIGNIFICANT’ number of childcare places need to be created in Barnsley to meet demand, according to a report.

Barnsley Council undertook a statutory assessment of all childcare places in the borough and found that the number of registered providers for children up to five years old has reduced by ten since last year.

It found that there has been a ‘significant’ reduction in the number of places being offered due to recruitment issues and increases in energy prices.

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt to announced plans to extend the government’s existing offer of 30 hours of free childcare to children aged between nine months and two years by 2025 in his spring budget.

However, he said he could not give ‘an absolute guarantee’ that all the places needed would all be available in time.

Council bosses said it’s critical to ensure the local childcare market is ‘equipped to meet the needs of working families with young children’, although it faces the challenge of ‘implementing the expansion at the rate and size required’.

There are a total of 232 providers of early years places in the borough, the remaining 12 registered providers do not offer early years education and instead are offering school age places only.

Coun Trevor Cave, cabinet spokesperson for children’s services, said: “Our early years settings remain among the very best in the country as judged by Ofsted and we know that good quality early years education has a positive long-term impact on outcomes and the life chances of children.

“This annual review, together with the work of the local multi-agency steering group and our delivery plan will help a greater number of young children to obtain a good start in life and effectively prepare them for school as well as enable working parents and carers to continue to engage with the employment market and attract further investment into Barnsley.”

The council has set up a multi-agency steering group to begin a plan to meet childcare needs across the borough.

The plan will encourage new providers while supporting existing providers and expanding capacity.

It will help create full-day care provision in areas where this isn’t currently available, as well as encouraging additional schools to provide 30 hours of care in a way which meets the requirements of working parents.

A council report added: “The reduction in the actual places being offered has widened significantly again this year.

“The cost of childcare is still rising with Barnsley settings charging above the regional rate for places.

“There is the need to create a number of places in the borough in order to meet anticipated demand.”