Worcestershire has lost more than a quarter of its childminders in under five years, figures show.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak has unveiled an income support scheme for self-employed workers, following calls from early years leaders for the Government to provide “vital” support for childminders during the coronavirus crisis.

Ofsted data shows that 304 childminders were registered with the watchdog in Worcestershire at the end of last year.

That was down from 428 in March 2015 – the earliest point for which a local breakdown is available – a decrease of 29% in less than five years.

Of the childminders registered with Ofsted at the end of 2019, 297 were on the Early Years Register – meaning they care for children aged 0 to five – while seven were not.

Across England, there were 37,620 childminders registered at the end of 2019, 11,800 fewer than in March 2015.

Ofsted says the number of available childcare places has remained relatively stable across England due to an increase in the proportion of places offered in non-domestic premises, such as nurseries and daycare.

Mr Sunak told self-employed people affected by the coronavirus pandemic they “have not been forgotten”, as he announced that a taxable grant covering 80% of their average profits over the past three years, up to £2,500 a month, would be made available from early June.

The scheme will be open to those with taxable profits of up to £50,000, and who make a majority of their income from self-employment.

“This scheme will be open to people across the UK for at least three months, and I will extend it for longer if necessary,” Mr Sunak said.

“You will be able to claim these grants, and continue to do business. We’re covering the same amount of income for a self employed person as we are for furloughed employees.”

Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Early Years Alliance, said the group welcomes the measures announced by the Chancellor, but is “deeply concerned” that childminders will have to wait until June to receive financial support.

He added: “Childminders have mortgages, rents, bills and other expenses to pay right now - how, then, can they be expected to wait until the start of June for any financial support, as the government has indicated?

"With many already questioning whether or not they are able to stay open to key worker families and vulnerable children during this period, it is vital that they receive wage support as soon as possible.

"With the number of families taking up formal childcare already falling significantly, childminders are already seeing huge drops in income from parent fees. As such, the Government must outline what interim support it is making available for childminders who are doing as it has asked."

Ofsted figures show that between October and December last year, 2,320 childminders left the childcare sector nationally and 1,470 joined, a net decrease of 850.

A Department for Education spokeswoman said: "Childminders are a vital part of the childcare market, particularly as they step up to help care for the children of workers critical to the Covid-19 response.

"We are committed to supporting early years providers at this time."