Price Of Childcare Soaring, Report Warns

Alison Kershaw, Press Association Education Correspondent

The price of sending a young child to nursery part-time is now £122 a week, according to a new report which says the cost of childcare is soaring.

It also shows that prices vary across the country, and warns that only half of local authorities in England and Wales have enough childcare available for parents working full-time. 

Overall, the Family and Childcare Trust’s 18th annual childcare survey found that sending a child in Britain aged under two to nursery part-time, for 25 hours a week, now costs £122 – up 7% on last year. 

For a child aged two to attend for 25 hours, the cost is £119 a week, up 6%.

Working parents in England are entitled to 30 free hours childcare a week for three and four-year-olds. If they need 20 extra hours on top of this, the average weekly price would be £94, the study says.

Cost of sending child aged under two to nursery for 25 hours a week:

Britain - £122.46

England - £124.73

Wales - £116.18

Scotland - £109.68

It notes that the survey does not give reasons for price increases, and these are likely to be different for different nurseries and childminders and different parts of the country.

The study does note that although the cost of childcare for children aged under three has risen above inflation, some mums and dads will be paying less than last year as they can now use tax free childcare, launched last April.

Tax free childcare covers up to 20% of costs, the study says, calculating that this would take the price paid by parents with a child aged under two who needs 25 hours a week down from £6,344 a year to £5,075.

Other parents may get support, depending on circumstances, through the benefits system or other schemes.

The survey, based on information provided by local authorities in England, Wales and Scotland, calculates that average weekly nursery costs for a child aged under two in England alone are £124.73, in Wales it is £116.18 and in Scotland £109.68. 

(FatCamera via Getty Images)

In England, the most expensive area is inner London at £183.56 a week, while the cheapest is the North West at £101.83.

The price for a child under two to attend a nursery for 50 hours a week is £232.84 a week, while in England alone it is £236.19, in Wales it is £218.73 and in Scotland £205.18.

In general, childminder costs are lower than nursery costs, and costs reduce slightly once a child turns two.

The survey also found that half of local authorities have enough childcare in all areas for children aged under two, while 42% say they have enough in some areas.

Ellen Broome, chief executive at the Family and Childcare Trust, said: “Childcare is as vital as the rails and roads, it supports parents to work, boosts children’s outcomes and provides our economy with a reliable workforce. Too many parents remain locked out of work by high childcare costs and low availability.

“New Government investment is welcome, but this year’s childcare price surge shows that without root and branch reform, many families will be left just treading water. The Government need to streamline the current hotchpotch of childcare support schemes. We need a simple and responsive childcare system that makes sure every parent is better off working and childcare quality is high enough to boost children’s outcomes throughout life.”

Minister for Children and Families Nadhim Zahawi said it was “pleasing” that parents were now spending less of their wages on childcare “as a result of the steps this government has taken”.

“There are always challenges when implementing any new policy but we are investing record amounts in childcare – around £6 billion a year by 2020 – and are working with the sector, which has responded well to the 30 hour roll out to address them.

“Our 15 hours offer for the most disadvantaged 2 year olds is giving these children access to early education and we know that take up of this offer is increasing.”

Angela Rayner, shadow education secretary, said: “The Government’s failure to provide free and high-quality childcare to those who need it most will keep many mothers locked out of the labour market, as rising childcare costs mean it doesn’t pay to work.

“The next Labour Government will give a fully-funded offer of 30 hours free childcare to every 2-4 year old in England, as we build a country for the many, not the few.”