THE number of childcare providers in York has fallen by more than 70 in the last five years - and a quarter of those remaining may not survive the impact of coronavirus, it has been warned.

Research from the Early Years Alliance suggests that in the City of York Council area, the number of childcare providers has dropped by 76 since 2015 - from 342 providers to 266 this year - with another 66 now at risk of closing.

And in a letter to the Secretary of State for Education, MP for York Central, Rachael Maskell, asked for a financial plan to save the early years sector, adding: “From speaking with nurseries in my constituency, they are now having to use their reserves and are really struggling. Many simply cannot afford to keep going without additional support.”

She added: “Mass childcare closures and a reduction in the availability of vital early years education would hit hardest the poorest families and most disadvantaged children in our society. It would also be a devastating setback for our city’s economic recovery, which will be reliant on parents being able to return to work rather than being forced to stay at home because there isn’t sufficient childcare available.”

Ms Maskell also told The Press that if childcare is not available, this will have a disproportionate impact on women and cause further gender-based inequality with many having to leave work altogether.

She added: “This has been made worse by grandparents unable to provide informal childcare due to shielding themselves against the risk of Covid-19.”

Labour spokesperson for children and education, Cllr Bob Webb said: “On the west side of the city centre we’ve seen the Crescent Nursery close, Priory Street Nursery close and others with a less than certain financial future. Working parents and carers need options near where they live and not the huge inconvenience of lengthy journeys, but unfortunately, Covid could be the tipping point for more providers if the Government and the council don’t step in to help quickly."

A Department for Education spokesperson said: “Throughout the pandemic, we have worked with the sector to make sure childcare for working parents has remained available.

“Nurseries, preschools and childminders will continue to benefit from £3.6 billion for free early year entitlements in 2020-21. On top of this, we have provided significant financial support to early years providers over the past months, giving them the security they need to stay open to children who need childcare places.

“We have also confirmed funding for childcare will continue at the level we would have funded before coronavirus until the end of the year, regardless of whether fewer children are attending, offering protection over a longer period from the impact of the outbreak.”