ALMOST half of all childminders in Scotland face going broke within six months without state support, a new survey has found.

The Scottish Childminders Association (SCMA) polled 900 people working in the sector, and found 46 per cent said they may not be able to last until the spring unless the Scottish Government steps in.

Another 28% said they have run up debt to supplement their income.

Childminders have seen an increase in operating costs since the Covid-19 pandemic began due to the need for extra hygiene measures.

Around 80% of those asked also said they have seen a drop in the number of children they look after.

The SCMA said all other types of childcare providers in Scotland had been able to apply for transitional support to help offset the additional costs, including staffing, arising from following the Scottish Government’s official guidance.

Scottish Labour MSP Mary Fee called on the SNP Government to lend more support to childminders.

She said: “It is a cause of great concern to hear that nearly half of Scotland’s childminding businesses are in financial danger.

“Childminding plays a vital role in enabling many parents to go to work with the peace of mind that they have the childcare they need.

“If Scotland’s childminding businesses are at threat then it puts the jobs of childminders and the working patterns of thousands of parents and carers at risk too.

“Scotland’s childminders and the families that they support must not be forgotten in this crisis.

“The time has come for the Scottish Government to take swift action to see that this sector is protected from the financial shockwaves of the pandemic.”

Liberal Democrat education spokeswoman Beatrice Wishart said the Government must act “meaningfully and urgently”.

She said: “Keeping childcare services going in this pandemic is going to be pivotal to recovery.

“Childminders are going to considerable expense and effort to ensure their premises are safe to allow these services to continue.

“This survey shows that there now is a real risk that they won’t see the other side of this pandemic.

“It could be a near wipeout, at the very moment they should be at the heart of the rollout of additional early learning and childcare.

“For children who have been starved of socialisation during lockdown, and parents who need flexible and high-quality childcare if they are to keep their jobs, that would be an utter disaster.”

The Scottish Government said: “We are deeply grateful to everyone in the childcare sector, including childminders, who have supported key worker families and vulnerable children during the health crisis, and recognise that lockdown has hit incomes in many areas.

“This remains a time of unprecedented challenge, and there are significant demands and pressures on the government to support businesses and people all across Scotland who are being impacted by the pandemic and the necessary public health response.

“We remain committed to working with the whole childcare sector to respond to the continued need to follow public health guidance while progressing the recovery.”