Tell us what you think about childcare costs?

(118 Posts)
KateMumsnet (MNHQ) Mon 09-May-11 16:47:06

Save the Children and Daycare Trust are launching a huge consultation of parents across Britain, focusing on the challenges of finding affordable childcare in this country.

According to the latest OECD research, British childcare costs are amongst the highest in the world - only Switzerland and the US outrank us. It costs an average of £177 per week for a full time nursery position for a child under two in Britain - 28% of the average net-income for a two-earner household, and more than double the OECD average of 13%.

The two charities want to find out what impact, if any, the rising cost of childcare is having on families - they're particularly concerned that less wealthy families might find themselves priced out of work.

So, whether it be cutting back on household essentials, or finding it harder to find or keep a job, please do share your experiences with childcare costs here, and we'll pass them on to Save The Children and Daycare Trust. You can also take their online survey here.

suzikettles Tue 10-May-11 13:00:08

I agree that the situation where childcare vouchers aren't available to the self-employed, or automatically available to employed people if their company doesn't want to join the scheme, makes it less helpful to working parents than it could be.

Local Authorities are also free to choose how they administer the 15hrs pw funded nursery which leads to differences between locations. In my LA they have heavily reduced the number of funded places available with private providers as they say there is space in council nurseries - but they don't open 8-6 so aren't any use to most working parents.

It's our biggest single cost, including mortgage. I agree with previous posters - the cost of care couldn't be cheaper, but it would be good to see a higher amount payable via childcare vouchers. The government seem to be planning to scrap it altogether eventually though. As childcare costs have gone up every year and the amount payable through vouchers has stayed the same, the scheme is already worth less year on year.

narniesarnie Tue 10-May-11 13:00:29

Yes, the situation is insane. I would dearly love to go back to work (if there was any) but can't really see how it is affordable for me. With two kids, one under two I am looking at £60 per day minimum. This together with the quite substantial drop in wages (recruitment agent thinks I am now worth 4 -5k less than I was thanks to recession) means that it just doesn't add up.

I think Mr Cameron and his cronies really don't want women in the workforce, best we just stay in the kitchen eh? After all people like me don't show up on the unemployment statistics do we so why would they bother helping us back into work.

emy72 Tue 10-May-11 13:48:22

We have 4 children and no family around to help, so it is a miracle that I still manage to work 3 days a week. Childcare costs are massive and childcare vouchers plus working from home together have meant it is just about doable.

I think workplace creches and working from home would help a lot of people. I also think childcare vouchers should be increased - I still don't understand why of all things they are taking a hit - surely they can't be such a burden on the state? It does feel like a kick below the belt for working parents.

stringerbell Tue 10-May-11 13:52:55

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

stealthsquiggle Tue 10-May-11 14:29:36

Stringerbell - "We don't have to worry about childcare in school hols as OH is a teacher and can't imagine how others cope with this."

Oh God yes. Holidays. Holidays are a nightmare. Even with my DC in holiday clubs whenever available and with jobs which are basically very flexible, I breathe a sigh of relief at having survived each holiday (by the skin of our teeth and with the help of both sets of GPs). That in turn makes me really sad - my DCs school holidays should be relaxed time for them and sometimes it just isn't - holiday club isn't nearly as much fun when you know you have to go, and will be the first there and the last to leave, because Mummy and Daddy have to work, and commute to that work.

I am not sure what the answer there is, BTW - just venting - but it would certainly make all the difference in the world if childcare were tax deductible (or, in other words, if childcare vouchers were not limited to £243/month each and were not in danger of extinction)

Zorro19 Tue 10-May-11 14:54:26

I totally agree with Guildenstern I would love to go back to work, but with having a 5 year old and a 1 year old and no family to help look after them, me and my husband have no choice but to bring in only the one wage, we would be worse off me going back to work!

It is amazing though how many people dont understand this and just think you are being lazy and dont want to work!

SwellyBelly Tue 10-May-11 15:29:48

I live in Switzerland and can honestly say that the childcare costs are astronomical. I currently pay 1300 pounds a month for 4 days of childcare for my son. Our twins are due in August and doing the maths on childcare makes me ill.

What I have encountered is covert discrimination when it comes to working mothers. When children go to school they are expected to go home for lunch, and they have wed afternoons off. How do you explain that to your employer?! Questions are often asked about whether it a mother can actually do her job with children - the same would never be asked of a father. I am no longer on Maslow's hierarchy of self fulfillment and ego - rather Im on the lowest level of providing food and shelter, and just barely. We're actually considering moving to another country where childcare is more affordable and society more appreciative of a woman's contribution in the workplace.

This discussion really hits home at society and what how policy makers want to shape the future. The developed world faces a pensions deficit, yet people are thinking twice about having children because of the current cost. I personally think it is important that children grow up with a working mother as a model, however difficult it is, as when they hit the workplace, they accept women as equals.

I don't know what the financial contribution of working mothers is to the economy, but Im sure it is significant enough for governments to ensure that those who want to work and contribute can do so, without parents worrying about whether they can afford to even work. After all, putting children through childcare is a worrying enough endeavour.

Or do our policy makers want to go back 50 years (as in Switzerland!!) and ensure that mothers have little choice - hmmm how do I decide between working and being poor, and not working and being poor - but to stay at home and perpetuate last century stereotypes.

Moan over!

Want2bSupermum Tue 10-May-11 16:02:34

SwellyBelly I hear you on the covert discrimination. I find that the US policy towards working mothers actually helps reduce discrimination in the workplace. Yes you don't get much time off but the reality is that most employers know they can attract and keep talented women as employees by offering more.

The system here also supports families who decide to have a parent stay home with the children as well as those who decide to have two working parents. You are taxed on your family income not as an individual and then they provide a tax break for those with daycare expenses.

SybilBeddows Tue 10-May-11 16:15:55

I gave up my career; the stress when the child is ill and there is just no back-up was just horrible. We had an au pair as well as full-time nursery places, precisely for that reason. And then she got ill. You end up spending a fortune (I was effectively breaking even on salary/childcare costs and working for the pension) but still get perceived at work as uncommitted and lightweight, and still struggle to work the extra hours demanded by most jobs. DH actually took off far more time than I did to care for sick children but men don't seem to get attacked for it in the same way angry.
With a third child I would have been making a massive loss and having even more stress and the game just wasn't worth the candle.
And that was with a reasonably well-paid professional job.

Guildenstern Tue 10-May-11 17:48:47

I actually think that this government doesn't want women to work. By cutting childcare assistance they cut their welfare bill; by keeping women at home the unemployment figures go down.

lynehamrose Tue 10-May-11 18:08:12

We have two ds's at school now, and I work 3 days a week. When they were younger, childcare took up a big slice of our income. I think parents should be able to claim tax relief on childcare - after all, its is direct expense due to working. If you work, you need it!

Having said that, I think things are generally improving. When I talk to older colleagues whose children are grown up, and hear about only 3 months paid maternity leave, and no free 15 hours childcare, I realise things have got better.

I do think childcare costs are a big factor in deciding family size though. Many people might consider having 3 or even 4 children, but when you work, this becomes nearly impossible.

I can't go to work because
1. We can't afford childcare
2. It would cost me more money to work because of childcare

It's ruining my life and I am desperately struggling with it, it seems there is no way out. Just a case of hanging on by the skin of the skin of my teeth until January, when DS1 gets his free place.
Only 2 years until number 2 follows him (I think I might be committed if I'm still at home with them by then)

Bonsoir Tue 10-May-11 18:38:13

Childcare costs are high in the UK for two reasons: firstly, the level of state subsidy is low compared with other developed countries; secondly, the quality of provision that society (parents) expect is exceptionally high compared with other countries.

For childcare costs in the UK to come down to internationally comparable levels, it will require both state subsidy and a significant lowering of parental expectations of care.

Needanewname Tue 10-May-11 18:50:48

I don;t think we have particular high expectations of childcare at all. I think that what we have is great, it just costs too much

Bonsoir Tue 10-May-11 18:52:24

Travel about a bit and take a look at childcare in other countries (in particular the adult:child ratios, the level of routine and institutionalisation) and think again!

Needanewname Tue 10-May-11 19:53:29

Yeah, thats not really an optin I'm afraid Bonsoir - what with working and everything, I'll have to rely on you to tell me about my high expectations!

starkadder Tue 10-May-11 20:03:41

Haven't read the whole thread but one thing to consider is that we might not necessarily be comparing apples to apples. e.g. in Spain (where I used to live) full time nursery is a lot cheaper than in the UK BUT full time is the norm, and you're expected to pay for it - it's very hard to find a nursery, even for quite young babies, that will let you take your children for mornings only, or 3 days a week only - you have to pay full time whether you go or not. e.g. see blog here about nurseries/childcare in Barcelona.

Also the 15 hrs a week free once they're free here is pretty good. I think some of the problems are partly caused by the fact that we're having children later (lots of good reasons for that), so often have 2 under 3 in expensive childcare at the same time.

And after all, why should the taxpayer fund parents particularly? Surely our problem to work out how to look after our children? I personally think that more parents - i.e. fathers too - working flexibly is the best answer - to gender equality and childcare issues.

It is bloody expensive and very difficult though.

starkadder Tue 10-May-11 20:04:34

(Once they're THREE. Not free. Wishful thinking…)

Needanewname Tue 10-May-11 20:06:22

One reason why the tax payer shoudl fund childcare for working parents is that the working parent then pays tax on their earnings. If people don;t have many children due to childcare costs, who are going to be the tax payers in 30/40 years time when we've stopped working?

starkadder Tue 10-May-11 20:11:43

yes, but working non-parents also pay tax. And I don't think a shrinking global population is a big worry.

Needanewname Tue 10-May-11 20:13:42

Yes but who is going to be paying the tax for the upkeep of the country when non-parents retire?

starkadder Tue 10-May-11 20:14:23

Also what Bonsoir says is true - at least for Spain - adult:child ratio is lower there, and there is not much expectation of nursery staff playing with or spending much one-on-one time with your child(ren).

starkadder Tue 10-May-11 20:16:36

newname - there are hundreds of thousands of people who want to work in the UK and pay tax here and, unless this government really shafts the economy in a truly spectacular fashion, I think that will continue. Even if every person in the UK refused to have another child, we'd be able to find plenty of people to come in and support us in our old age, to be honest.

DownyEmerald Tue 10-May-11 20:21:11

It was our biggest single cost after the mortgage. I went back to work half time earning 13k, my childcare costs were 5k so about 50% of my take home pay. It was a huge chunk. It really made me think very hard about having a second child. I enjoy my job and I feel I make a contribution to society, but I can understand why women don't go back to work when there is so little financial reward.

I felt v. lucky having childcare vouchers, and they were a godsend - but they didn't cover it all, so the rest of the money I handed over to my childminder, I'd been taxed on, and then she was paying tax on - mad. My partner's work don't do childcare vouchers so we only had one lot. The amount you can get in cvs also didn't change - over the years as my childminders fees went up obviously.

So basically - tax-free childcare vouchers offered automatically by every employer - that cover up to a reasonable percentage of your earnings - say 50%, so go up as earnings go up. Let them not affect your pension - it is only for a few short years.

RickGhastley Tue 10-May-11 20:21:12

15 "free" hours knocks about £1,800 off the £12,000 annual cost of full time nursery care in my area (West London)

As I work, I need "wraparound" care for DS. None of the pre-schools near me offer this, they offer only a 2.5 hr morning session or 2.5 hour afternoon session with no option to "buy" extra hours.

So DS has had to stay in the private nursery he has been in since he was 12 months old. All the nurserys round here receive a termly payment from the ed. authority (around £600ish per term) which they then "knock off" people's bills.

So my DS does not get 15 free nursery hours per week, he gets a cash payment which equates to far less than 15 hours per week as the nursery fees are so much more than the amount given by the ed. authority. When I questioned the nursery owner about this, she said that nurserys in this area could not survive on the amount paid by the ed authority.

What would really help me is pre-schools that give you the option of topping up your free hours to full days.

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