A new childcare survey shows the impact of childcare costs on parents of under threes.
Almost two thirds of parents with children under three who return to work either work fewer hours, have changed jobs or stopped working due to childcare costs, according to a survey by campaign group Pregnant Then Screwed.
The survey of 6,147 parents found 8% of parents do not work due to the cost of childcare and over a third (35.5%) of those who return to work, only just break even or make a financial loss due to the cost of childcare.
Pregnant Then Screwed calculates that, based on average income and average daily cost of childcare, the average person could spend 53% of their income on childcare.
Its survey shows parents in the East of England are most impacted by the cost of childcare, with 40% stating that their earnings don’t cover childcare costs or are completely used on childcare costs, whereas parents in Northern Ireland fare the best, with 23% of parents stating that their earnings are not covering their childcare costs.
The cost of childcare also varies drastically from region to region; with London being the most expensive and Northern Ireland being the cheapest option at £42.31 a day for under threes.
Joeli Brearley, founder of Pregnant Then Screwed said: “The childcare system is not working for parents and we know it’s not working for providers. If we are to change the landscape for women, and parents, we need to provide properly subsidised childcare from nine months old. The cost of early years childcare is punishing. Only 10% of respondents told us they had significant surplus after childcare costs, with some 35.5% of those who return to work saying their earnings don’t cover costs or are completely used on childcare.
“Eight per cent of those who responded have not returned to work due to childcare costs, and for those who have: 47.2% work fewer hours, 18.1% work more hours and 11.2% have had to change jobs because of the cost. The cost is catastrophic for all, whether you’re a cleaner, teacher, or a lawyer; and our case studies demonstrate it is not just a subset of society that is suffering but all, and regardless of location too.”
For those on Universal Credit, the picture is more challenging because of the delay in receiving the credit. Sarah, a single parent from the South West of England who works in HR, said: “I had to pay two full months of fees before I received any universal credit.” She says she was lucky to have help from family otherwise “it would have caused me significant debt or made it impossible for me to return to work”.
Responding to the survey, the Early Years Alliance cautioned against rushing to extend ‘free’ childcare schemes for three and four year olds to younger children. These have been the subject of a lot of criticism from childcare providers who say they do not cover the full cost of childcare, leaving nurseries in difficult financial circumstances, with some being forced to close as a result.
Its chief executive Neil Leitch said: “While we fully recognise the stress and pressure that these costs place on working families, rushing to call for so-called ‘free’ childcare schemes to be extended to younger children isn’t the answer – because if the government funds this as poorly as they have been funding the existing offers, the early years sector in this country simply will not survive.
“If we truly want to support parents to be able to access affordable, sustainable and quality early years care and education, we as a country must invest what is needed. We hope with the upcoming Budget and Spending Review, the government will take the opportunity to do just that.”
Meanwhile, the Early Years Alliance has called on the Department for Education to provide clarity on what financial support will be made available to early years providers in England affected by coronavirus, as fears over the long-term impact of the outbreak continue to grow. One of the main concerns is around funding for ‘free’ childcare if children are withdrawn from nursery. Leitch commented: “We are continuing to receive a high volume of queries with regard to the rules around ‘free entitlement’ funding, and whether or not early years providers will still receive this funding for any children who are absent through either illness or the requirement to self-isolate. While we are aware of individual local authorities who have confirmed that they will continue to fund providers in such instances, there is as yet no central guidance on this.”