More parents relying on debt or savings to pay for childcare

More parents relying on debt or savings to pay for childcare

More than four in 10 parents of under-fives in England reported taking on debt or having to withdraw savings to pay for childcare, according to a survey.

The state of the nation research from campaign group Pregnant Then Screwed suggested the situation for parents is getting worse, with this proportion having grown since their 2023 report.

While last year’s research found some 35% of parents relying on debt or savings for childcare costs, this year it was around 46%, the charity said.

Just over a third (37%) reported having to use credit cards, take out a loan or borrow money from family or friends, while more than a fifth (22%) said they had to withdraw money from savings or their pension.

For single parents, the proportion having to rely on debt or savings rose to almost two thirds.

More than half (53%) of parents surveyed said they spend more than a quarter of their household income on childcare, while almost a fifth (19.3%) spend more than half their household income on childcare.

Some 70% of mothers agreed with the statement that “after paying for childcare it doesn’t make financial sense” for them to go to work, while half of fathers felt this way.

A fifth of mothers felt unable to take up a more senior role because of childcare costs and availability, compared with around 9% of fathers, according to the survey.

Almost a quarter of mothers said they were considering leaving the workforce thanks to childcare costs or availability.

Joeli Brearley, founder of Pregnant Then Screwed, said: “We’ve not only got a cost-of-living crisis, we’ve got a cost-of-working crisis that disproportionately impacts mothers.”

She said many parents who want to have more children “cannot afford to do so”.

She added: “If we aren’t careful, becoming a parent will be a luxury item, and the economy can’t afford to pay that price.”

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt announced in March 2023 that some families of children as young as nine months will be able claim 30 hours of free childcare a week.

Under the plans, working parents of two-year-olds will be able to access 15 hours of free childcare from April. This will be extended to working parents of all children older than nine months from September.

From September 2025, working parents of children under five will be entitled to 30 hours’ free childcare per week.

However, there have been warnings of a “baffling” system for parents with “practical issues” affecting some families seeking to ensure their access to the scheme.

Meanwhile, some nurseries said they had not yet been given the funding rates they will be paid by their local authority, while there are also concerns about recruiting and retaining staff to deliver the policy pledge.

The Pregnant Then Screwed research found that as well as cost, availability of places was an issue, with a third (34%) of parents saying their childcare provider has a waiting list longer than nine months and just 13% of parents saying there was no issue with childcare availability near them.

Ms Brearley said: “The government has promised parents that they will soon be able to access more affordable childcare, but this will only be successful if the scheme doesn’t bankrupt childcare providers.

“We’ve already seen that the rollout of the new funding has not been straightforward with many parents still waiting to hear if they will be able to secure a funded place, while many others are complaining that cost savings are minimal due to significant price increases for childcare costs outside of the funded hours.

“It is clear that after years of disappointment, parents are struggling to believe the promise that things will get better.”

Pregnant Then Screwed said it surveyed 35,800 parents, from which Women In Data extracted what it described as a nationally representative sample of 5,870 parents.

A spokesperson for Women In Data said: “Collectively we need to close the gender gap and remove the challenges women face to achieve equality of opportunities in the workplace and reduce the burden of the unspoken ‘tax’ on mothers from additional unpaid labour as carers and in the home.”

A Department for Education spokesperson said: “We are rolling out the largest ever expansion in childcare support in England’s history, saving families using the full 30 funded hours up to £6,500 per year.

“Our average funding rates for new entitlements are expected to be substantially higher than the average hourly fees paid by parents last year, and we are already seeing providers looking to expand their placements across the country.

“We published local authority hourly funding rates in November, and we are urging local authorities to confirm these rates by the end of the month.”

Published: by Radio NewsHub

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