Rising childcare costs may force parents to quit their jobs
With some working families spending up to £15,000 a year on childcare, parents are increasingly being forced out of work and into poverty as their wages cannot keep up with the rising costs of nurseries, a new report shows.
A survey by the Daycare Trust charity showed that the average cost of nursery care has risen nearly six per cent in a year, while wages have only gone up by 0.3 per cent on average, and 44,000 fewer families are getting help with childcare bills since the tax credit cuts were introduced.
Currently, the average cost of a part-time nursery place – 25 hours per week – for a child under two is more than £100 a week or just over £5,000 annually, while the most expensive nursery recorded in this year’s survey charges three times that much for the same number of care hours.
London nurseries are up to a third more expensive than in other parts of the country, which was acutely felt by mother-of-two Kate Goddard who had to quit her job after the birth of her second child, as the cost became too great.
“I went back to work three days a week when my first child was born and because I was on a decent salary and had childcare vouchers it was OK,” said Mrs Goddard, 31.
“But when I had Charlotte I could not afford to go back. The cost of two of them was just too much – it would have meant I was only making £50 a month effectively.”
It is not just Londoners who are paying over the odds. Scottish parents are facing a postcode lottery, with some local authorities charging twice as much as others, making some nursery places in Scotland as expensive as southern England.
The survey also found a shortage of quality childcare in certain areas, particularly for disabled children.
Anand Shulka, the Daycare Trust’s chief executive said that the “the figures reinforce Daycare Trust’s fear that the loss of this vital lifeline is forcing families out of work and into poverty.”
The Daycare Trust is calling on the government to boost the value of childcare tax credits and to allow for a wider range of children to benefit from the free early education entitlement, the provision of which they want extended to all two, three and four-year-olds by 2015.
Charity 4Children’s chief executive Anne Longfield said the survey showed a “cocktail of stress” felt by working parents.
“Parents are finding themselves trapped in a double whammy of needing more help with childcare because finances are tight at the same time that the government is reducing its own spending in this area.
“The result is a cocktail of stress, juggling childcare and for some the difficult decision of giving up work.
“Helping them through these difficult times has to be a priority – locally and nationally – and this is why we are now carrying out our annual Children’s Centre Census.”
Children’s Minster Sarah Teather said that the government would extend 15-hour-a-week free nursery provision to 40 per cent of two-year-olds and that they were investing an additional £300m to help families with childcare costs, while they look for work.