Fears as childcare costs add to cost-of-living crisis: System is at breaking point, leaving many families facing a financial crisis
- UK parents pay the second-highest costs for childcare in the developed world
- Some parents are spending as much as 65% of their wages on childcare
- Current support for parents in the form of tax-free childcare up to £2,000 a year
- Most parents earning up to £100,000 and working 16 hours or more are eligible
The country’s childcare system is at breaking point, leaving many families facing a financial crisis.
Parents in Britain pay the second-highest costs for childcare in the developed world, according to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development. But costs vary with some spending as much as 65 per cent of their wages on childcare, according to charity Business in the Community.
Raging inflation and a cost of living crisis is making the financial situation worse for many working families with young children.
Breaking point: Parents in Britain pay the second-highest costs for childcare in the developed world, according to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development
Some organisations are taking up the cudgels on behalf of those who pay for childcare. Thousands of parents took to the streets yesterday for the nationwide ‘March of the Mummies’ protest, organised by pressure group Pregnant Then Screwed (PTS).
Joeli Brearley, PTS founder, says: ‘We have an unaffordable, inaccessible, dysfunctional childcare system that has been neglected by the Government for the last decade.
‘Nurseries are closing their doors in droves due to underfunding and a lack of childcare professionals, who are leaving the sector to work in supermarkets because the pay is higher. When will the Government realise that investing in childcare is just that – it’s an investment.’
There is currently financial support for parents in the form of tax-free childcare up to £2,000 a year. Most parents earning up to £100,000 and working 16 hours or more are eligible.
But this falls well short of average annual costs. For a child under two, the average cost of a part-time childcare place is £138.70 a week or £7,210 a year.
Take-up is low. Some 391,000 families claimed it in June, compared to the 1.3million eligible for it. It is not until the term after most children turn three that parents also receive 30 hours of free childcare during term time.
Laura Suter of wealth manager AJ Bell, says: ‘The £2,000 of funding pays for just over seven weeks of childcare costs for a child under two in a full-time nursery. This is not a huge dent in the annual bill.’
Childcare organisations are urging the Government to address the issue. They broadly agree that support should kick in from the point when parental leave ends, which is usually nine months after a baby is born.
They also argue that the 30 free hours should be extended to the entire year, not just term time. More money, they say, should be available for childcare providers and staff.
Elin Hultgren, a 33-year-old development manager from Nottingham, uses the tax-free childcare scheme to help pay for her 20-month-old daughter Freja’s fees. But she’s still paying £720 a month for four days a week of care. For Elin and fiance Alex, childcare absorbs 15 per cent of their household income.
She says: ‘If we didn’t have to spend so much on childcare, I wouldn’t be so worried about our household costs going up all the time.’