Parents are paying £1,533 more for nursery places than at the start of this parliament
Parents in Britain are spending a higher proportion of their income on childcare than parents in most other developed countries. This is the conclusion of a new report released today by the Family and Childcare Trust, whose annual cost survey finds that over the last parliament, childcare costs have risen by 33 per cent.
A family paying for a part-time nursery place for a child under two will now spend £115.45 per week, or £6,003 per year. This is £1,533 more than families were paying in 2010, but wages have remained largely static, meaning that childcare is eating an ever larger portion out of family income.
Nationally there has been a 5.1 per cent rise in costs even since 2014, with London parents experiencing an 8.5 per cent rise. Maternal employment in London is 15 per cent lower than the UK average, which the report partly attributes to the higher costs of childcare.
The report also finds that just 43 per cent of councils in England have enough childcare for working parents. Gaps in provision for disabled children have also increased, with just 21 per cent of English local authorities having enough childcare for this group. In Wales, only seven per cent of local authorities have enough childcare for disabled children.
In September 2014, the 40 per cent most income deprived two year olds in England became entitled to free part-time early education. But in November 2014 only 60 per cent of those eligible were actually receiving this help.
This means that 110,000 eligible two years olds are missing out on free early education. And, in 30 out of 152 local authorities, more than 1 in 10 three year old children did not take up their free early education place in 2013.
Jill Rutter, the author of the report, saysthat in some cases this lack of uptake is because local authorities simply do not have enough places for all eligible children, or are lacking funds to recruit enough staff.
The report makes a number of recommendations for improvement. They include:
Merging Universal Credit support for childcare with the tax-free childcare scheme to create a single progressive system.
Extending free early education to cover all two-year-olds and for 48 weeks of the year for all two, three and four-year-olds.
Making early education and childcare a legal entitlement for parents, comparable to the right to a school place.
Amending the funding formula for free education for two-year-olds, so that it meets the cost of provision.
The report calls on the next government to set up an independent review of childcare funding, in order to install a simpler system providing ‘progressive levels of support, quality and accessibility’.
The current system is too convoluted, meaning that many parents are unsure of their entitlements and the necessary funding is not being used efficiently.
Ruby Stockham is a staff writer at Left Foot Forward. Follow her on TwitterLike this article? Sign up to Left Foot Forward's weekday email for the latest progressive news and comment - and support campaigning journalism by making a donation today.