How childcare costs stop many mums from going back to work

This morning BBC Radio Kent called me to ask for my views on new research by the Family and Childcare Trust which has been published today.

According to their research, the cost of a part-time nursery place for a child under two has increased by an inflation-busting 33% over the course of this Parliament.  The charity also reveals in its 14th annual childcare costs survey, that the same nursery place has for the first time broken through the £6,000-a-year barrier, averaging at £115.45 a week across Britain, representing a rise of 5.1% in just one year.

Stephen Dunmore, chief executive at the Family and Childcare Trust said: “During this Parliament we have welcomed extra support for parents through the new tax free voucher scheme and a commitment to raise the amount of childcare support in Universal Credit. But, if childcare costs continue to rise at this pace, the benefits of this new financial support to parents will be quickly eroded within the next Parliament.

In spite of several positive initiatives, including more funding for free early education, the childcare system in Britain needs radical reform. In the run-up to the general election this May we want to see all political parties commit to an independent review of childcare. Britain needs a simple system that promotes quality, supports parents and delivers for children.”

It’s just crazy isn’t it? All childcare for under-fives has risen by at least 27% in the last Parliament. The average cost of part-time care from a childminder has risen by 4.3 per cent in one year, and now costs £104.06 per week or £5,411 a year.

I don’t think any of us would disagree or refute that when we have children, we need to expect to take on the cost of childcare, but for many families, childcare is cripplingly expensive.

I talked to several mums this morning in my Confident Mother group and here are some of their stories:

  • Kate – it’s true, I pay more for childcare than for my mortgage. But I can’t afford to not work even though a lot of my salary pays for childcare. We’d need to move out of the area we live in and away from a good school. We seriously considered sending my eldest to private school as the fees were less than what we pay nursery (until no. 2 came along!). I’d like to be able to work less but if I am honest I can’t afford to reduce my hours as the reduction in childcare costs wouldn’t match the drop in my salary.
  • Kathy – I didn’t go back to work after my second child. I only wanted to work part time and I calculated that my pay would cover childcare and train fare and leave me with about £20 a week. I didn’t want to work for next to nothing and chose to stay home and look after my children myself. I was happy to be a SAHM and really value the fact I was able to do that, however I really feel that I have sacrificed my career by putting my children first. I had a good career in university admin and now work as a school receptionist as I want part time term time only work, which is very hard to find. I may have made different choices if I’d known then what it would feel like now. And if I’d had free family childcare available it might have been a very different story. Now I’m having to rebuild a career from scratch.
  • Nicky – My eldest is due to start school in September and if she doesn’t get a place at the school I work at (which is out of catchment and oversubscribed) then the cost of before and after school care as well as the childminder for my youngest will mean that if I continue to work I’ll be paying more in childcare than I earn. I don’t want to give up my job, I love what I do but I can’t compromise my family’s quality of life for that sadly.
  • Maria – We pay a childminder as we couldn’t afford a nursery; when we had two children, I paid my sister instead!! It’s ridiculously expensive for people who don’t get help – I do earn a good wage, and need to work part-time at least to pay the bills! I would love not to.
  • Childminder Donna joined our conversation  Childminders are expected to be like businesses now, like nursery schools, with all the costs that go with it.  They have to charge extra for all the extra training that goes with keeping up with OFSTED standards and criteria. That puts us out of range for some mums, and we are also trying to compete with nurseries and after school clubs.
  • Emma – Even with “free hours”, my youngest son’s preschool still costs £50 a day so it would cost £12,000 a year to have one child there full-time. So I am waiting for him to start school before I can work more … like Kathy i am starting my career again from scratch because of the complexities of childcare and parenting.  For me it’s not just the childcare that has financial implications but also the longer term costs of reduced future earnings, no significant pension, costs of retraining etc

The sad truth of the matter is that employers are missing out on valuable expensive talent because so many women do not return to work after maternity leave. Employers invest £100s if not £1000s in recruiting and training valuable staff, only to lose them after maternity leave. And yes I do recognise that sometimes it’s the man who stays at home (in my own family – my husband gave up work to look after the children because everything he earned was being spent on childcare), however the reality is that mums are the default parent or carer. In today’s society, typically there is no extended family. We live in isolation. Nurseries have limited hours (with good reason, and I’m not at all suggesting they should be extended) which means that those doing the nursery pick-up must leave work ‘on time’. Quite often, in our society of pervasive presenteeism, that in itself is seen as a black mark against your career.

What about you? What childcare challenges do you face? How does it affect your career or your career confidence? I’d love to hear from you.



6 thoughts on “How childcare costs stop many mums from going back to work

  1. Hi Sherry

    I don’t have children, but I had a business for many years as a children’s entertainer. Back then, the problem was that companies weren’t willing to create facilities for childcare, which helps a lot of mums to stay at work. Instead, it created a raft of start up business women. Women are resourceful, even though it would be preferable if challenges weren’t put right in front of them at such a crucial time in their life.


    • Thanks for your comment Sarah. The problem of companies not willing to create facilities for childcare hasn’t changed. Women are resourceful but you’re right, it seems a shame that those challenges are there at such a crucial time of life. Of course this isn’t an issue for everybody because some mums want to stay at home until their children are grown up. Potentially though, for those that WANT to go back, it’s such a waste of talent.


  2. I can’t believe the cost of child care in the US (Avg. $196 per week for an infant up to 2 years)! I’m so thankful my boys no longer need to be in daycare! Of course when they were, I was luck enough to stay at home with them.


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