Rising childcare costs prompt govt plea

Recent increases in government spending on childcare do not got far enough, Britain’s leading childcare charity has warned.

The Daycare Trust’s claim comes as it publishes its annual survey of childcare costs which, it shows, has seen childcare bills rising above inflation.

A full-time nursery place for a baby or toddler under two now costs an average of between £7,000 and £8,000 per year. In England the average cost is £8,368, an increase of five per cent on last year’s figures.

Although Scotland saw prices come down on last year Wales saw the steepest increase, up fourfold on inflation. Across the country out-of-school childcare bills rose more than six times the rate of inflation, the report finds.

The Daycare Trust’s joint chief executive, Alison Garnham, said the government had “massively” increased its investment in high-quality childcare in recent years.

“In light of these figures, however, we think it needs to go further,” she explained, calling for the free nursery scheme to be expanded from 12.5 hours to 20 hours a week for all two-, three- and four-year-olds.

“We are also calling on them to inject more money into subsidy for out-of-school childcare,” she added.

“For parents in the greatest need, we think this should be free, and for others heavily subsidised.”

At present parents can receive up to 80 per cent of their childcare costs in tax credits, while vouchers from employers also help.

Despite these allowances the Daycare Trust report pointed out UK parents are paying more for their childcare than anywhere else in Europe.

On the continent around 30 per cent of costs are covered by parents, compared to around 70 per cent in Britain.

Minister for children, young people and families Beverley Hughes said: “I recognise that childcare costs are a serious matter for some families in some areas – particularly those on lower incomes – that is why we are doing more than ever before to make good quality childcare and early education accessible and affordable.”

She did not indicate any intention to raise government provision for childcare payments, however, saying it was important to take “full advantage of the support on offer”.