Hidden Gems report

Children at baby and toddler group waving their hands in the air Hidden gems report June 2023

In recent years, the early years sector has faced a multitude of challenges, most notably the Covid-19 pandemic and the cost-of-living crisis. While there is growing research on the effect of these challenges on nurseries, pre-schools and childminders, there is little information on how baby and toddler groups are faring, what issues they have been facing and how these can be remedied.

Our online survey was conducted between 2 to 16 March 2023 and received 272 responses.

Given the focus of the survey, all respondents worked, owned or volunteered at a baby and toddler group.

The majority of respondents were group leaders (47%), owners (19%), managers (8%), session leaders (10%), assistants or support staff (8%) and administrators (1%). Other respondents (6%) included chairpersons, apprentices and group coordinators.

Key findings

  • Around three-quarters (76%) of respondents said that the costs associated with running their baby and toddler group have increased in the last year. Overall, costs increased on average by 20%.
  • Of those that pay rent or occupation costs, nearly two-thirds (65%) said that these costs had increased over the past year, with an overall average increase of 19% over the period.
  • Around one in five (21%) have been unable to cover the cost of running the group using the group鈥檚 income. Of these, three in 10 (29%) have had to dip into their own personal savings to make up the difference.
  • Around three in ten (28%) have had to increase fees in the last 12 months, with prices rising by, on average, 15%.
  • More than one in 10 (11%) said they do not have as many resources, including play equipment, tables and highchairs, as they would like.
  • Nearly three-quarters (72%) said recruiting volunteers and employees was a challenge.
  • One in five (20%) said they are concerned that their group could permanently close within the next 12 months.
  • Over half (53%) said that family members attending their group were facing mental health challenges, while almost the same proportion (52%) said families were negatively affected by rising energy costs.
  • More than half (51%) said they have signposted families to relevant services, such as foodbanks, while a quarter said they or their group has donated toys, books or other resources (25%) to families.

Download the report



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