CHILDMINDERS in Corsham and beyond have reached crisis point, saying a Government increase in the amount of 'free' childcare offered to parents will not be paid at the going rate, meaning they are facing a drop in income.

Concerns are growing among those in the childcare profession after they learned that Wiltshire Council is only getting enough Government money to pay them £4.14 an hour for the new free 30 hours' childcare for three and four-year-olds due to be introduced in September. Most childminders currently charge around £5.

"Everyone will be running at a loss," said Mavis Rose, of the Corsham Childminding Group. "It is not just the childminders it is affecting, it is the nurseries and pre-schools too.

"There are not enough childminders and nurseries for parents to have a choice in the first place and morally we would all feel really bad if we didn't offer the funded hours."

The scheme offers 30 hours' 'free funded' childcare to all parents earning under £100,000 a year. The childminding group says that with the new £4.14 an hour rate, a childminder caring for three children aged three or four for 30 hours per week would stand to lose £2,941.20 per year or £245.10 per month.

The 61-year-old added: "We are not allowed to charge a parent for top-ups. All my parents have said they would like to continue using me, they would be happy to pay me a shortfall but that is against the law and that seems unfair to me.

"Why the government has decided those on high salaries need help with their childcare is beyond me. Then to expect those of us in the childcare sector who are already on the lowest earnings to lose money so that this policy can be put into practice is deplorable and just shows how out of touch the government is with its electorate."

The childminders' group, which is meeting others in the area to discuss their options, wants the Government to change the scheme to subsidise childcare, rather than provide 30 hours for free, so that they can continue to work viably.

Corsham Town Council chairman Councillor Ruth Hopkinson said: "This is an example of government setting up a scheme which seems good and then, having introduced it, which passes the obligations of carrying it out to county council, at the same time as cutting their funding.

"We now have childminders who are already on less than minimum wage who are having their wages cut again due to funding.

"It should be subsidised because then the childminders can do a top-up. It needs to be sorted before people like Mavis decide not to do it any more. We are trusting them with the little treasures in our lives and they are getting paid a pittance to do it."