High Childcare Costs are Nothing New

Occasionally I use my Blog to bang the drum about issues affecting the childcare industry. Following the release of a new report that states part time childcare costs are now higher than the average UK mortgage, I feel the urge to share



On the one hand, my venting about the state of the UK childcare industry gives you light relief from me dribbling on about life as a working mum. And it makes me feel better to have a rant and a rave every now and then.

I don't do it very often mainly because I'm not known for my debating skills but sometimes I do get quite fired up about something childcare related, and need to get it off my chest. Today is definitely one of those occasions.

Childcare costs are higher than your mortgage

The papers (and radio) over the last few days have been filled with articles on the report by the Family and Childcare Trust into the cost of childcare.

The main conclusion from the report is that parents are paying more for their childcare than their mortgage. And that's not even full time childcare; it's the costs of part time childcare that are outstripping mortgage payments.

It confirms that childcare costs have risen more than inflation each year and that parents in Britain hand over more than a quarter of their salary, more than their European counterparts.

Tell me something I don't know...

Well, blow me down with a feather. No, not really as this is not news.

High childcare costs have been the state of play for parents for many years, and certainly as long as I have been working in this industry. And the issue is raised every year, but nothing really changes.

The Government offers free childcare (currently 15 hours a week for 3 and 4 year olds) but this barely touches the sides of the problem.

Subsidised childcare comes with higher taxes

When the debate about childcare costs comes up, someone will always compare Britain to Scandinavian countries, where childcare is available to all, is very cheap and is provided by highly qualified childcarers. But as most people fail to realise, this comes at a huge cost, namely very high taxes.

You can't have a system of heavily subsidised childcare without everyone having to dip further into their pocket to pay for it. People without kids may not be too happy about that.

Nurseries, childminders, and nannies all deserve more

On Radio 4 yesterday (you can tell I'm getting old if that is my radio channel of choice), someone said that it's the childcarers and nurseries that are ripping families off. Seriously?!

How many millionaire childcarers do you know (Jo Frost excluded)?

Workers in childcare are some of the poorest paid of any workers in any industry. They work for little pay, they work very long hours and it is often a very physical and mentally demanding job. And yet these are the people who look after the most precious beings in society. They deserve to be paid more, not less.

Nursery owners are not the enemy either, as they face huge bureaucracy, high overheads and a large wage bill.

Mums don't always have the choice not to work

The other argument that comes up is that mums should stay at home. There is always someone on Mumsnet who condemns mums who swan off to work, whilst leaving their children to be cared for by others. They forget that for most people work isn't a choice; it's a necessity.

Also, why shouldn't women work?

I for one feel strongly that having gone through school, university and law school, it would be deplorable not to work. It doesn't make me love my children less just because I'm not sitting at home, making cakes and knitting.

Tax relief and childcare costs

This debate will continue to rage on, with no-one able to come up with the magic solution. Certainly a more substantial tax relief (other than the meagre sums offered by childcare vouchers) should be high on the agenda, but I can't see that coming in anytime soon.

Until that solution comes along, and if you are listening at the Bank of England, keep those interest rates down.

Amanda Coxen, Working Mum and Tinies Director

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Many parents commented on how excellent the crèche was. The children were kept very happy and the parents were freed up to enjoy themselves without worrying.
Lucia, London