Many parents being asked to pay to put their kids on nursery waiting lists

Nurseries across the country, and particularly in the major cities, are charging parents additional fees to put their child on a waiting list or to register them.

Toddlers doing a music session at nursery


Parents are spending on average £71 per child to place them on waiting lists for nursery places, with no real security of gaining a place, according to a survey by Direct Line Life Insurance.

It says that, in some instances, parents have paid up to £199 in order to secure their child a place on the waiting list. The fees do not guarantee a child a place at the nursery and in most cases many are non-refundable, says Direct Line Life Insurance.

It spoke to 108 nurseries across the UK including in London, Belfast, Edinburgh and Cardiff and found that more than a third (34 per cent) of nurseries charge a non-refundable fee for their waiting lists, ranging from £5 to £199. Of these nurseries, the highest proportion (22 per cent) that charged for waiting lists were in London, closely followed by Edinburgh (14 per cent).

A further 36 per cent of nurseries did not charge a non-refundable waiting list fee, but did charge an upfront non-refundable registration fee – average cost £75 – instead. Direct Line says this means that overall, 70 per cent of nurseries are asking for some sort of non-refundable fee upfront before their child has even started at the nursery. This is on top of a refundable deposit, often equivalent to a month of fees, which isn’t returned until the child leaves the nursery. Direct Line calculates that in some of the more expensive nursery locations parents need to budget for an upfront cost of £2,125 just to be able to secure a childcare place.

Of the nurseries surveyed, a fifth (20 per cent) did not display their fees upfront on their websites. Direct Line says that such information needed to be requested, either through online forms, through a physical visit or via the phone.

Hannah Donnison, Product Manager Direct Line Life Insurance, said: “Childcare costs often take up a large part of a family’s monthly budget, so it’s important that parents are aware of all the lesser known and hidden costs that come with arranging childcare in the first place. It’s not surprising that some parents find it unaffordable to cover the upfront costs of nurseries before even securing a place, especially in circumstances where many might not have had income for a few months or it’s been reduced while on maternity or paternity leave. Individual nurseries are known to take different approaches, but a large percentage do charge additional fees so make sure to look for these when doing your research.”

Nurseries say they are under a lot of financial and staffing pressures and that the Government’s expansion of ‘free’ places, to be rolled out over the next two years, is going to cause them even more problems due to years of underfunding of subsidies for three and four year olds.

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