UK childcare the most expensive in Europe

Jan 30 2003 by Brian Amble Print This Article

UK childcare bills have reached record heights, according to a national survey published by the childcare charity, Daycare Trust.

The highest nursery cost identified in the survey was £300 a week – more than £15,600 a year. The average cost of a nursery place for a child under two is now £128 a week - or more than £6,650 a year - across the UK, rising to as high as £168 - £8,730 a year - in London and the South East. These figures represent an inflation-busting increase 6.7 per cent over the past year.

The typical cost of a full-time place with a childminder for a child under two is £118 a week, while the typical cost for an after school club is £34 for 15 hours a week.

This compares to the average weekly household income of £550 and average weekly spending on food and housing combined of £77.60.

The rising bills faced by parents threaten the success of the Government’s childcare strategy. Daycare Trust calls on the Government and employers to provide more help for parents towards the cost of childcare.

"British parents face the highest childcare bills in Europe," said Daycare Trust Director, Stephen Burke. "Our latest survey shows the growing sacrifices being made by some families – and why many others can’t afford quality childcare. "

Parents pay three-quarters of the cost of childcare in the UK, with Government paying most of the rest plus a small contribution by employers. The high cost of childcare in Britain is a key reason why only 13 per cent of parents with dependent children use formal childcare services all the time.

The spiralling cost of childcare is blamed on the gross imbalance of supply and demand. With only one childcare place for every seven children under eight and growing numbers of women with young children in the workplace, demand outstrips supply and is pushing up prices.

The Daycare Trust is calling on the government to encourage employers to provide more help by providing tax incentives for financial contributions towards the costs of childcare.

Working families on lower incomes who get help towards their childcare bill through the childcare tax credit are also hard hit, the Trust says, because they still have to find at least 30 per cent of the cost of childcare. The current average award through the childcare tax credit of £40.61 a week is less than a third of the typical cost of a nursery place.

The Trust urges the government to increasing the percentage of childcare costs covered by the tax credit, increasing the level of childcare costs covered to reflect the real costs acknowledging that parents with two or more children in childcare face double or more costs. They have also called for the income levels under which families are eligible for help from the childcare tax credit to be increased.

“Affordable childcare for all is crucial to achieving many of the Government’s policies – from ending child poverty to raising educational attainment," says Stephen Burke.

"Families in most other European countries can access quality childcare in their local community at a price they can afford. Parents are paying too high a price for childcare services which are as key to the well-being of our society as schools, GPs and transport."