Parents of children under the age of two are paying up to £9,100 a year for part-time childcare, according to new research.
The cost of early-years education has risen by 3 per cent in the past year across England, Wales and Scotland, according to an annual survey by charity Coram Family and Childcare. Parents now pay an average £127 per week, or £6,600 a year, for each child under the age of two for a 25-hour place with a nursery or childminder.
In inner London — the most expensive region for childcare in the UK — the price hits £175 a week, or £9,100 a year, compared with an average £108 a week in Yorkshire and Humberside, or £5,600 a year.
The report comes in the wake of concerns over the effects of steep childcare fees on parents who want to return to work. Parents with children aged between three and four can receive 30 hours of childcare a week funded via a government scheme, but the report found that only just over half of local areas have enough childcare capacity to support all working parents full-time.
This means even if families can afford to pay for childcare, they may struggle to find the provision they need. Some families face even bigger gaps. Less than a quarter of local areas have enough places for disabled children and parents working outside the usual 9 to 5 hours.
Megan Jarvie, head of Coram Family and Childcare, said: “Childcare is every bit as vital as schools, healthcare or transport. It supports parents to work, provides our economy with a reliable workforce and boosts children’s outcomes.
“But too many parents remain locked out of work by high childcare costs and low availability and too many children miss out on high-quality childcare and the benefits to their life chances that come with it.”
Recent government investment was welcome, she added, but as prices continued to rise, families remained at risk of being left behind. “For many parents, making work pay is an uphill struggle.”
Purnima Tanuku, chief executive of National Day Nurseries Association, said there was a lack of funding from the government for the 30 hours of “free” childcare.
“The government claims it offers three- and four-year-olds ‘free’ childcare hours, but then does not pay enough to cover delivery costs. Coram Family and Childcare’s research echoes our own findings: that nurseries and parents are paying the price for this shortfall in funding with higher fees for under threes or places being limited.”
Others supported this view. Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Early Years Alliance, a charity, said: “Since current funding rates were set in 2015, early years providers have endured rising wage and pensions obligations, as well as business rate rises, mortgage and rent hikes and countless other cost increases. As such, many have been forced to increase fees just to keep their heads above water, and this has had a particular impact on parents with younger children who aren’t eligible for the funded schemes.”