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The cost of a part time nursery place for under two-year-olds has risen by 33 per cent in the last five years, the Family and Childcare Trust has found.
The average cost of part-time childcare for under two's in the UK has reached £115.45 a week, with costs reaching over £175 a week in some local authority areas.
The research has been carried out by the charity Family and Childcare Trust and is calling for the next Government to hold an independent review of childcare and for childcare to become a legal entitlement matching a child’s right to a school education.
The charity, which campaigns to improve life for families, wants the next Parliament to merge Universal Credit support for childcare with the tax-free childcare scheme and extend free early years childcare to offer places to more children for longer periods of the year.
Research discovered the most affected area was the East Midlands where the average cost has increased by 26 per cent since 2014 for a part-time nursery place for two-year-olds.
Stephen Dunmore, chief executive at the Family and Childcare Trust said: “During this Parliament we have welcomed extra support for parents through the new tax free voucher scheme and a commitment to raise the amount of childcare support in Universal Credit.
“But, if childcare costs continue to rise at this pace, the benefits of this new financial support to parents will be quickly eroded within the next Parliament.
“In spite of several positive initiatives, including more funding for free early education, the childcare system in Britain needs radical reform. In the run-up to the general election this May we want to see all political parties commit to an independent review of childcare.”
Cllr David Simmonds, chairman of the Local Government Authroity’s (LGA)Children and Young People Board, said: “Councils know that the cost of childcare is a real issue for mums and dads looking to return to work and this report highlights some of the concerns the LGA has long been highlighting.
“While councils try to work with local private, charitable and voluntary organisations to ensure there are adequate and affordable nursery places, the current system stifles councils’ ability to deliver the childcare parents tell us they need and want. This means that despite our best efforts we have a limited influence over the childcare market.
“We are also concerned that the way childcare places are funded and subsidised is overly complicated and confusing for parents. This could mean some mums and dads are missing out on the vital financial support they are entitled to. We need to see a complete overhaul of this funding system to ensure childcare is accessible, high quality and crucially, affordable.
”It is vital that the next Government unties councils hands so we can have a greater role in helping to drive up the quality and provision of childcare. We need a simplified child care system that allows councils to get on with the job of supporting local parents and children.”
Davina Ludlow, director of daynurseries.co.uk, a leading online guide to day nurseries and nursery schools, commented on the report, saying: “The cost of childcare is cripplingly high for some parents – we welcome any help they can be given in this vital area.
Easing the burden
“The calls to action proposed by the Family and Childcare Trust are steps in the right direction. But what is essential if costs are to come down to manageable levels is proper funding from the next Government to ease the burden on hard-working families.
“Early years providers play such a vital role in the education and development of young children, but many simply do not receive the support they need to deliver these critical services. It is important that whoever forms the next Government steps up to ensure that parents and guardians do not suffer.”
4Children chief executive Anne Longfield describes childcare as one of the biggest financial and logistical challenges currently facing families. 4Children has called on politicians to put childcare costs at the front of their campaign ahead of the next general election.
She said: “It is no wonder, given such a steep rise in costs, that families across the country are struggling to make ends meet – with a significant number considering giving up their jobs as a direct result.
“Giving parents the childcare support they need not only helps them, but is far better for our economy too.”
Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Pre School Learning Alliance, said: “For many years now, government funding for the free entitlement schemes for two-, three- and four-year-olds has failed to meet the cost of the providing these places, leaving childcare providers to make up the shortfall. As a result, many providers have been forced to increase the cost of paid-for hours just to stay afloat. “The Alliance has long warned that a failure to address this shortfall would lead to cost rises, but the Department for Education has consistently chosen to ignore this problem. Clearly, this cannot continue.
“Neither parents nor providers should have to pay for a scheme that the Government claims to be funding.”
Computershare Voucher Services (CVS) is the UK’s largest childcare vouchers provider, a benefit that is available to all eligible working parents with children under the age of 15, or 16 if they are disabled.
CVS has sponsored the Family and Childcare Trust’s annual childcare costs survey for the last five years.
Julian Foster, managing director of Computershare Voucher Services, said:
“Employers could do more to help parents by making flexible working opportunities a reality for employees at all levels.
“There is still time for employers to set up their own childcare voucher scheme to help parents with childcare costs before the government’s tax-free voucher scheme is rolled out later this year, especially as many families won't be eligible for the new scheme."