Thousands of families across the UK are spending more money on childcare each year than they are on their mortgages, a study report has revealed.
The Family and Childcare Trustís yearly report identified that the average cost for a family to send one of their dependents to either nursery or some after school childcare is £7,549, whilst the average fulltime childcare expenditure for families has been gauged at £11,700 each year.
This is markedly higher than the average mortgage costs for a household in the UK, which has been estimated to be around £7,200 per year.
The report has argued that childcare costs in the UK are starting to reach a financially unattainable value for a higher proportion of families in the UK, and highlighted that they had risen by a monumental 27% in 2009, which is far more than the rate in which wages have picked up during the same time period.
And the report added that this trend has been allowed to continue despite the fact that both the Labour and coalition administrations in the past six years have been fully aware of the trend, and have promised regulation to make it more financially affordable to households across the UK.
They did however highlight that the current administration are set to pump a further £1 billion into childcare programmes in the UK, but urged for greater levels of funding to be placed into similar programmes in order to help more women get into employment.
Currently, all children in Scotland, Wales and England are entitled to receive free schooling when they turn 3 years old, which enables parents to have 570 hours per annum to use on work whilst their children are looked after.
However, the report argued that this has done little to stop Britain having one of the largest ratioís between childcare costs and incomes, with only Swiss parents currently contributing more of their salary than people in the UK.
The report said: “Children are losing out on vital early education and families remain trapped in poverty because they cannot make work pay.
“Childcare providers struggle with debts. Women fail to return to the labour market after they have children and the economy loses their skills and their taxes.”
Anand Shukla, chief executive at the Family and Childcare Trust, urged the current administration to implement new policy that would see free education start for children at two years old, rather than 3, so that parents have greater flexibility when applying for employment in the future.
He pointed out that the government is currently investing around £300,000 into childcare at present, but called on a new system to be developed in order to help the lowest earning families in the UK have greater choice in their scope of employment.
“We would weight it differently to get some funding to lower income families”, he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
ëShutting parents out of workí
Education and Childcare minister Elizabeth Truss has argued against the findings of the report, citing that recent government surveys indicated that childcare costs in England actually decreased last year, marking the first occasion this has happened in 12 years.
Ms Truss highlighted that the average household in England paid £15 less on childcare over 2013, and argued that the data from the Early Parent Survey clearly displayed the success of her department in tackling the ongoing issue of soaring childcare costs.
“This means more parents are able to access affordable childcare and support their families”, she said.
However, Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Pre-School Learning Alliance, contested Ms Trussís remarks and argued that the reduction in childcare costs had come about from “entirely to the efforts of early yearís providers” and not from any policies implemented by her department.
He said: “For the government to attribute this positive trend to their own ‘reforms’ is completely disingenuous.”
Lucy Powell, Labour’s shadow minister for childcare and children, criticised the coalition administration for allowing childcare costs to balloon at their current rate, and argued that they” are soaring, adding pressure to family life and shutting parents out of work”.
Liz Bayram, chief executive of the Professional Association for Childcare and Early Years, called for the government to invest far more into childcare programmes, in a move that she identified will benefit the country economically as well as improving the spending power of households through the greater flexibility that parents will enjoy with their working hours.
Ms Bayram added: “To help more parents access affordable, high quality childcare, government needs to invest appropriately in childcare and recognise the economic benefit of supporting families to balance work and caring responsibilities.