High childcare costs preventing parents from working

The high cost of childcare is preventing millions of parents from working, with industries who rely on shift work being particularly hit, according to a new report.

The Childcare and Work report, by the Family and Childcare Trust, alongside Parental Choice, says over 4.4 million parents (around a third of all parents with dependent children) are living in a household where one or both parents are not working and that nearly half of these families want to find work or work more hours.

It states that 23% of British mothers who are not in paid employment cite childcare issues as the main reason they are unable to enter the job market. The report found a strong relationship between the costs of childcare and the levels of parental employment.

It bases its calculations on the last 10 Labour Force Surveys which show around 40% of unemployed mothers with dependent children want to work, census data on the employment of parents with dependent children and data from the Family and Childcare Trust’s annual costs survey.

The Trust also surveyed local authorities about the cost and availability of childcare. The report says only 43% of local authorities in England, and 18% in Wales, report that they have enough childcare for working parents. These figures fall to 14% and 0% respectively for parents who don’t work 9 to 5.

It says the research proves that there is lower parental employment in areas where childcare costs are highest. The report says nursery prices are 32% higher in London. In Tower Hamlets, for example, it says just 31% of adults with dependent children lived in households where both parents worked or were working single parents themselves. At the other end of the scale, this figure rises to 76% in South Gloucestershire, Rutland and Leicestershire.

The report calls for businesses to do more to help working parents remain in work through, for instance, more flexible working such as compressed hours and homeworking.

Julia Margo, Chief Executive of the Family and Childcare Trust, said: “Without investment, the childcare system will not be able to cope with the increased demand, and families will continue to be denied the opportunity to re-join the workforce or take on extra hours of work. We want the government to use the £535 million worth of savings from the delay to the roll out of tax-free childcare to invest in flexible childcare for working parents.”

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