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Nursery Fees Reach A Record High

March 9, 2023

According to research by the charity Coram, nursery fees have gone up by 5.9% over the past year, while the number of nursery places has gone down. The government claims that in the previous five years, it has spent £20 billion to assist families with childcare expenses. In Great Britain, a full-time nursery place for a child under two costs an average of £14,836 per year.

Jo, mother of two-year-old twins from Manchester, spoke to the BBC about the rise in costs. She worked through the pandemic until she was 27 weeks pregnant as a critical care nurse with more than 17 years of experience.

Working is “part of who I am,” she claims. “It is important to feel like I’m doing something worthwhile, and I don’t want to give that up.”

The cost of daycare has forced Jo to reduce her hours to one day per week, and she claims that in the long run, she will need to change careers. In April, the nursery for the twins will raise its prices. For each twin, Jo and her husband James, who is also employed by the NHS, would pay £56 per day. In addition, they have wraparound care to find for their 4-year-old son. That amounts to £133 in total every day, which is more than 75% of Jo’s long-shift pay.

A poll of 24,000 parents by the charity Pregnant then Screwed found that one in four parents believes the expense of childcare now exceeds 75% of their take-home pay. One in ten families breaks even, or childcare costs more than their take-home pay. 

“I would work more if it was feasible, but it’s completely unaffordable,” Jo says.

Nursery costs around £284 a week

According to BBC research, there are wide price variations in Great Britain for a full-time nursery place for a child under two. It costs roughly £285 per week, or 44% of the typical full-time worker’s salary.

Scotland has lower prices. But despite the fact that people in inner London make more money, disproportionately high nursery fees total more than half of the typical full-time salary.

Similar price increases are reported in childminders, nurseries, pre-schools, and after-school care by the Coram Childcare Survey 2023. The cost of childcare in the UK is still among the highest in the world.

In England, childcare options have decreased, and some facilities have had to close. According to the survey, only half of local areas had enough facilities for children under two.

And only 66% of schools have enough room for three- and four-year-olds, who receive at least 15 hours of free time per week for most of the year. Both numbers are down 7% from the prior year.

Map of UK showing Nursery costs across GB

Nurseries forced to close

According to a poll conducted by the National Day Nurseries Association, there were 87% more nursery closures between April 2022 and December 2022 than there were during the same time last year. The poorest regions of the nation saw nearly a third of the closures. 

The YMCA, which operates 89 nurseries, claims to be forced to make “tough decisions.”

The charity says that it doesn’t get enough money from the government to pay for the free childcare it offers. As a result, it says, its nurseries are being “forced into extinction” by rising fuel costs and an increase in the national living wage that will happen in April.

Other areas of the economy are being squeezed at the same time. According to Ofsted, almost 10,000 childminders have also closed in the last five years. Around 26,000 fewer early years spaces are available overall in England than there were at the end of 2018.

The results and recommendations of a parliamentary inquiry into the reasons behind the high cost of childcare will be released in Autumn.

A reassessment of the funding rate for free hours to match what nurseries charge, an exemption from business rates, and increased assistance for working parents of children under two are some of the ideas being proposed.


Families need support

“Standards remain high,” says the Department for Education, and the number of childcare spaces available to families in England has stayed mostly the same since 2015. A spokesperson says that over the last five years, more than £20 billion has been spent to help families with childcare costs. This is because families and childcare providers are having trouble making ends meet.

Many families can also take advantage of tax-free childcare, but according to Treasury data, the programme has been underfunded by £2.4 billion since it started in 2017.

Bridget Phillipson, the Labour party’s shadow education secretary, will say in a speech on Thursday that childcare reform will be her top priority as education minister.

The question remains: Is childcare too expensive in the UK? Let us know your thoughts.

 

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