PEOPLE are being urged to consider a career in childcare to address a severe shortage of carers in County Durham.

In common with many other areas, the county does not have nearly enough people providing childcare places for youngsters whose parents require them.

It has a total of 567 childminders, of which the lowest numbers are in Teesdale, Easington, the Wear Valley and Chester-le-Street.

The Childcare Information Service (CIS), part of the area's Early Years Development and Childcare Partnership, is urging people to consider looking after children as a career.

It is highlighting the grants and training available to childcare providers, making the job an attractive option.

On March 26, the organisation will launch the Childminder Network Scheme at Durham County Cricket Club, in Chester-le-Street.

CIS manager Alison Gargett said: "There are only 50 childminders in the Easington district alone, which is way below the figure actually required, but all areas of the county are experiencing a shortage in quality childcare. We are hoping to redress the problem."

As well as providing grants and training for people looking to enter the profession, the CIS caters for parents seeking information on the range of childcare options available.

It advises them on creches, childminders, day nurseries, playgroups, pre-school groups and out-of-school clubs.

Ms Gargett said: "We have a range of leaflets on all types of childcare, designed to help parents choose the type that is best suited to their children's needs.

"Whether you are a working parent who needs all-day cover, or a mum looking for a playgroup, we can help find good quality, registered care.

"Parents should also remember that help with costs is available through the Child Tax Credit."

Anyone interested in a career in childcare and parents requiring care for children can telephone 0845 602 4469 for information.,