“Crippling” childcare costs mean British parents are spending an average of £116 per week for a part-time nursery place, with many parents “effectively shut out of the workplace”, according to new research by the Family and Childcare Trust.
Research found parents are spending over £6,000 every year on childcare costs, more than double what families spend on food and drink in a year.
In its 16th annual Childcare Survey, the charity warns that whilst the price of nursery places and childminders has increased by only 1.9%, struggling families are still spending almost half (45%) of their disposable income on childcare – partly due to poor wage growth.
Government attempts to move more lone parents into work could be undermined, with parents on benefits who move into minimum wage jobs taking home as little as £1.96 an hour after childcare costs.
The trust says that some parents moving into work could end up spending all of their income on providing childcare for their children. Contrary to government claims of “making work pay”, some parents may find that working doesn’t leave them any better off.
As well as the rising cost of childcare, many parents are struggling to find any kind of childcare. Only half of English regions have enough childcare places for parents working full-time.
The situation is even worse for parents working unsociable hours, with only one in eight areas having enough childcare places for parents who do not work typical office hours.
And less than one in five areas in England (18%) have enough childcare for disabled children.
The charity is calling on the UK Government to ensure every parent is better off working after childcare costs, and periodically review funding for free childcare places.
More information should be available for parents about local childcare provision, the charity says, and access to childcare for children with special educational needs and disabilities needs to be improved.
Ellen Broomé, deputy chief executive at the Family and Childcare Trust, said: “Childcare is as vital as the rails and roads for helping our country to run: it boosts children’s outcomes throughout life and helps parents work.
“We need a strategy to make sure that every parent is better off working after they have paid for childcare.
“The Government must closely monitor the roll out of the 30 hour offer and tax free childcare to make sure that all children can access high quality childcare and all parents can make real choices about how they work and care for their children.”
Angela Rayner MP, Labour’s Shadow Education Secretary, said: “When parents working full-time are spending almost half their income on childcare, it’s clear the Tories are failing to deliver fair, affordable and sustainable childcare for hardworking families.
“The survey shows that the Tory election promise to provide 30 hours free childcare is now in further trouble with many local authorities reporting major shortages of available places.
“There are simply not enough places to meet demand, especially after school, or if parents are working shifts or have disabled children.”