TUC warns some childcare costs could rise to £2K a month by 2026

The TUC is warning that monthly childcare bills could hit £2K in inner London by 2026.

Close up of child's hands playing with colorful plastic bricks and red motocicle at the table. Toddler having fun and building out of bright constructor bricks. Early years childcare


The TUC is warning that parents of under two year olds will have to pay £2,000 a month in some parts of Britain by 2026 if childcare costs continue to increase at the same rate as they have over the last decade.

Its analysis shows childcare costs for children under two have risen by nearly £3,000 a year in England in the last decade. It says that in 2012 the average full-time nursery bill for a family with a child under 2 was £11,300. But in 2021 it had risen to £14,200 – an increase of 26%. It adds that the East of England (+42%) and the West Midlands (+38%) have seen the biggest rises in costs in the last 10 years.

The TUC estimates that by 2026 nursery bills will have risen to £2,000 a month in inner London and will reach the same level in the East of England by 2027.

It says the UK spends less than 0.1% of GDP on childcarethe second lowest investment in the OECD. And we now have the second highest childcare costs among leading economies. A TUC poll of working parents with pre-school children – published in March – revealed that one in three (32%) spend more than a third of their wages on childcare. Around one in seven (15%) say that the costs take up more than half of their pay.

The Government’s latest response to concerns about the childcare crisis which has seen an increase in nursery closures, staffing shortages and ongoing reductions in childminders has been to propose a change in staff-to-child ratios for young children.

The TUC warns that reducing staffing ratios would not drive down the costs of childcare – something the Early Years Alliance which represents nurseries supports – but would instead damage quality and could force more workers out of the sector.

The TUC says the childcare industry needs urgent investment and that ministers must immediately raise spending to at least the OECD average of 0.7% of GDP on childcare. It would ideally like to see a universal free childcare system, beginning from the point where paid maternity or parental leave ends. In addition it is calling for better pay and conditions for childcare workers and a new childcare partnership forum between unions, government and employers to work together to set a fair pay agreement for childcare workers.

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: “High-quality childcare should be affordable for all parents. It’s how we keep women in work and close the gender pay gap. But in this cost-of-living emergency, working families are spending more and more of their pay packets on childcare bills, while their wages stagnate.

“This is putting huge stress on family budgets at the same time as other living costs are shooting up. Cutting staffing ratios isn’t the answer. It would simply put more pressure on our already overstretched, underpaid and undervalued childcare workers.

“We desperately need free, quality childcare for all parents – and a long overdue pay rise for childcare workers.”

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