28 September 2023

Many parents of under 5s on less than £50k ‘quit work due to childcare costs’ – survey

28 September 2023

One in five parents in households earning less than £50,000 leave the workforce due to childcare costs, new research from a women’s charity has found.

Pregnant Then Screwed surveyed 11,811 parents with children under five – and over half said childcare costs and availability issues with it were now “more of a concern than the cost of living”.

It’s affecting households at the lower end of the income scale the most.

For those in households earning under £50,000 in total, who do stay in employment, over three-quarters (76.6%) reduce their hours to make childcare feasible, the research found.

Some 42% of parents surveyed also said the cost and availability of childcare has prevented them from having any more children, while almost a third of parents (29%) said they rely on family and friends for childcare help.

The charity said the UK has one of the most expensive childcare systems in the world – and that costs are rising, while incomes typically aren’t.

The survey found that, in the last 10 months, 41% of parents have seen their childcare fees increase by 5-10%. For 14% of parents, it rose by more than 10% in that time.

Joeli Brearley, founder and CEO of Pregnant Then Screwed, said the the cost of having a child today is one that many families “cannot bear”.

She said: “Our crumbling childcare sector continues to push new families into debt and onto benefits – work does not pay when you have a young child. We currently have the lowest birth rate in the last 20 years in Britain, and yet we are making it harder and harder for families to afford to have children.”

Childcare isn’t just somewhere for young children to go while their parents are at work, she pointed out. “It is the earliest education for our children and plays a huge role in supporting children’s emotional and physical development.”

In March, chancellor Jeremy Hunt announced reforms in the Budget, providing an extra £4 billion over three years.

He also announced that in all eligible households in England, every child under five will receive 30 hours a week of free childcare when maternity leave ends. Critics have pointed out that this will not be in place until September 2025, however.

Brearley said: “The [childcare] sector needs immediate investment and an ambitious workforce strategy if the promise of the budget is to be made a reality.”

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