SIX new potential childminders have come forward in Dawlish in a bid to meet the chronic shortage of provision in Devon.

The crisis in childcare has been most clear in the seaside town where the town council has made its own efforts to recruit more childminders. 

Dawlish has been highlighted over the last year for its lack of provision for parents and identified as one of the ‘hotspots’ in the county where families struggle. 

Devon County Council has revealed the county has lost almost 50 childcare providers in a year.

There are now 47 fewer childcare settings, which includes childminders and out-of-school clubs, in spite of the number of people needing free childcare.

The drop means there are now 1,274 childcare providers in the county.

Although the number of under-five-year-olds in Devon has fallen by 751 this year, the portion of such children entitled to care is high.

The percentage of two-year-olds in funded places was 86 per cent, higher than the 72 per cent national average, while three and four-year-olds taking up early years funding at 96 per cent was also higher than the 92 per cent national figure.

Requests for the 30-hour free childcare entitlement had also risen.

In spite of the drop in provider numbers, and a slight fall in the number of settings securing a good or outstanding rating from education regulator Ofsted, county councillors were asked to agree that the county’s childcare provision was sufficient.

The council is not responsible for providing childcare itself, but has a duty to support the sector.

But Dawlish Cllr Martin Wrigley, deputy leader of the Liberal Democrats, expressed his frustration at the report and wants more work done.

He said: ‘This report is vitally important to children and young parents of this county and it is atrocious, there’s no other word for it.

‘It says overall there is a sufficient level of childcare, but there is a lack of out-of-school provision, a decrease in providers rated good or excellent, and a reduction of 47 groups.’

He highlighted Dawlish, where he said just one nursery and three childminders were available for a population of roughly 15,000 people.

He said: ‘For a town that has had 2,000 to 3,000 new homes in recent years with young families coming to the town, it is not sufficient.

‘I raised a fuss about this last year and had an instant response saying action would be taken, but over the year there have been lots of attempts and only in the last few weeks has there been any action.’

Cllr Wrigley added that the town’s mayor had met with schools recently, which led to six possible new childminders being identified.

He asked: ‘But why did it take a year for that to happen?’

Dawlish Town Council has made its own calls to address the crisis. 

Members backed an appeal to improve provision for parents earlier this year after Devon County Council identified the town as being a hotspot area where childcare is badly lacking. 

The authority has highlighted areas such as Dawlish where provision is particularly low. 

A total of 15 areas were highlighted, including Exminster, where a rise in housing development has led to more need for childcare services.

Recruitment and retention of childcare staff, partly caused by low levels of pay amid the rising cost of living and lack of affordable housing is also highlighted in the report.

The council said it is seeking to promote childminding, and had removed its fees for a training course aimed at people interested in taking up the vocation.