Prices also vary significantly across the country. In Inner London – the most expensive region in the UK – the price of a part time nursery place for a child under two is £175 per week, or £9,100 per year, compared to an average £108 per week in Yorkshire and Humberside, or £5,600 per year.
Even if they could afford it, many parents will struggle to find the childcare they need. In England, only just over half of local areas have enough childcare for parents working full time. Some families will face even bigger gaps – less than a quarter of local areas have enough for disabled children and parents working outside the usual 9 to 5.
Most parents will be able to get some support with paying for their childcare, including from two new schemes introduced in 2017 – 30 hours funded childcare for three and four year olds with working parents in England, and Tax Free Childcare across the UK.
Coram Family and Childcare asked local authorities what impact the 30 hours funded childcare has had on their local childcare market. While most say either that there has been no impact or that they don’t know:
- One in four local authorities (26 per cent) report that 30 hours is pushing up childcare prices for 3 and 4 year olds outside funded entitlements
- One in three local authorities (36 per cent) report that 30 hours is having a negative impact on the financial sustainability of childcare settings
- One in four local authorities (28 per cent) think that 30 hours will have a positive impact in future on the quality of early education and childcare
While many families welcome this support with childcare costs, others may be missing out on the help that’s available because the system is so complex. There are seven different ways families in England can get support – all with different eligibility criteria.
Some Government support has failed to keep up with childcare price inflation: in 94 per cent of local authorities, a full time nursery place for a child under two is now more expensive than the maximum costs supported under Universal Credit and Working Tax Credit. Families in these areas will find that they may end up worse off working, or working more 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 is welcome, but as prices continue to rise, families remain at risk of getting left behind. For many parents, making work pay is an uphill struggle. The Government needs to streamline the current maze of childcare support schemes so that families can understand what they are entitled to and access the childcare they need. 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.
Alongside Coram Family and Childcare’s call for ambitious childcare reform, the Childcare Survey 2019 sets out several short term actions Government can take to make it easier for parents to find and afford childcare:
- Increase the maximum amount of childcare costs that are supported by Universal Credit in order to make sure parents are better off for every extra hour worked, and switch to upfront payments so that parents can afford to move into work.
- Provide start up grants and responsive funding for childcare providers to increase the availability of childcare places.
- Extend the 30 hours entitlement to parents undertaking training to make sure childcare costs do not prevent parents from developing the skills and employability that drives social mobility.
- Improve access to early education for disadvantaged children by doubling the early years pupil premium.
- Consider how current spend on childcare could be reallocated to better meet the needs of disadvantaged and low income children, including current underspend of the Tax Free Childcare budget.