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Thursday, 27 November 2014

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Budget call for more support to be given to working parents

Chancellor George Osborne is being urged to help working parents cope with crippling childcare costs in his forthcoming Budget.

Joanna Black photo
Joanna Black with Luke and Paige

Nursery leaders and poverty experts are calling for more support on March 19 following the publication of a new study which says families are paying more for part-time childcare costs than the average mortgage.

The Family and Childcare Trust’s annual childcare costs survey shows that the cost for families with for one child in nursery part time and another in an after school club is £7,549 a year. It compares to the average mortgage cost of £7,207 - a difference of 4.7 per cent.

If it was full-time childcare the amount would be £11,700 a year – 62 per cent higher than the average UK mortgage. Childcare is also outstripping household bills, the survey has found, with families now spending more on it than on their weekly food shop.

Sarah Cooper manages Crosby Nursery in Crosby-on-Eden near Carlisle and is co-chair of the city branch of the National Day Nurseries Association.

She said: “It would be nice to see the Government funding for nursery hours stretched out to all families with two-year-olds. It is only the most disadvantaged at the moment. Parents are being encouraged to go out to work by the Government so if they are pushing us in that direction surely there should be a bit more support?”

Families in Cumbria pay an average of £91.87 for 25 hours of childcare per week – less than the national average of £109.89 per week for a child under the age of two. The most expensive in Cumbria is £120 a week for 25 hours of care, figures from the county council show.

For older children, Cumbrian families pay an average of £39.50 each week for a typical out of school club.

Married hospital sonographer Sian Houghton lives in Cumwhinton Road, Harraby. The 31-year-old has a daughter, three, and six-month-old son. She pays around £600 a month for them to go to nursery six hours a day, three times a week.

“I had to wait until my daughter got her 15 hours of free childcare at nursery before I could put in another,” Mrs Houghton said. “I couldn’t put them in full time, that would probably cost me around £1,000. It is all about the choices people make.

“I get annoyed when some working families that could do with just a bit of help don’t seem to get the same level of support as others. I know a friend who doesn’t have family here around her to help. She works full time and puts her child in childcare – it is people like this that deserve more help.”

Joanna Black, a chartered accountant, lives in Upperby, Carlisle, with her husband and two young children.

She has estimated she will spend around £600 a month on childcare when she goes back to work following the birth of her second child four months ago.

The majority will be nursery costs for her daughter, with around £50 going on sending her five-year-old son to his school’s breakfast club. Mrs Black said: “I don’t expect the Government to fund my childcare costs. It is worthwhile going to work but I know there will be people who will be unable to do that because of childcare costs.

“I’ve worked it out; it will cost us £40,000 by the time we put them through nursery but we don’t begrudge that. Children are expensive and you can’t put a cost on childcare – they are looking after the most precious things in your life.”

She added: “Nurseries have great people who work for them, a lot of overheads and things like staff ratios they have to meet when looking after children of different ages.”

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation, a national social policy charity which aims to tackle poverty, wants any additional funding to be directed toward low-income families.

The Government aims to double in September the number of free childcare places available for the most disadvantaged two-year-olds across the country.

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