Costs of childcare are rising
by Claire McEneaney
A recent report by the Daycare Trust shows that the costs of childcare are rising at a rate much higher than inflation. The average cost for a weeks childcare for a child under 2 is now at £167. Typical costs in London and the South East were higher, an average of £226. Some parents surveyed reported paying up to £400 per week. Many families are spending over a third of their weekly income on childcare. Currently, the government’s free childcare scheme only covers childcare from age 3 until school age. This means that many parents are having to dig deep into their own pockets to pay for childcare places.
On the flip side, we equally know from our work on Transforming Early Years that many families are simply not using paid-for childcare. One site commented that:
“We had a huge shock when we interviewed 32 families (92 children) and none of them had ever paid for childcare. Many are doing part-time jobs but they all use sisters and aunts etc.”
The figures from the Daycare Trust begin to shed light on this. If a family has people out working part-time or in low-paid work, then childcare costs are now prohibitively high, meaning they have little option but to use family members and friends to provide childcare for them. This is also true for many families in full-time work, where salaries are remaining static or rising below inflation, whilst childcare cost rise above . Many families are actually entitled to free or reduced cos childcare for children under age 3 through the tax credit system. However, it becomes clear that this system is not working for many families as childcare costs make returning to work not financially viable. A lot of families also don’t know what their childcare entitlements are, as the system is confusing and counter-intuitive in many cases.
We know that Children’s Centres and Sure Start can have real impact on some of the most vulnerable families, so for many families it is vital that childcare is affordable for all families, especially those more likely to be doing part-time or lower paid jobs. Given the Government’s drive to return people to get off benefits and back into work, as their way of tackling the ‘benefits culture’, this presents a very practical challenge. We need to listen to families to understand the real challenges that they face, to understand what we can be doing to better support them, as they return to work, with things like access to good quality, affordable childcare.