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16% of parents on low incomes say childcare costs force them to use food banks

New figures released today reveal the frightening impacts of childcare costs on the country’s lowest-paid parents. The findings, taken from a huge 20,000-respondent survey, show that parents who receive Universal Credit, and those whose household income is less than £20,000, are sometimes forced to take extreme measures to make ends meet while paying for childcare.

By Mumsnet HQ | Last updated Sep 16, 2021

Those with a household income of less than £20,000 p/a are significantly more likely to:

  • Say that because of childcare costs they’ve used food banks (16%, vs 1% of those with a HH income over £20k)
  • Say that childcare costs mean they have accumulated debts (41%, vs 22% of those with a HH income over £20k)
  • Say that because of childcare costs they’ve cut back on essential items, eg heating, essential food or clothing, or housing costs (34%, vs 11% of those with a HH income over £20k)
  • Say that their childcare costs are more than their mortgage or rent (39%, vs 33% of those with a HH income over £20k)
  • Say childcare costs mean they’ve used credit cards or credit arrangements to pay for essential items (39%, vs 28% of those with a HH income over £20k)
  • Say childcare costs had a significant impact on their standard of living, or were completely unaffordable (70%, vs 49% of those with a HH income over £20k)
  • Think they would have attained more seniority in their work, or earned more, if they had not had childcare considerations (92%, vs 81% of those with a HH income over £20k)
  • Say that difficulty obtaining available childcare that met their needs was a major factor in their decision to change working commitments (69%, vs 48% of those with a HH income over £20k)
  • Say that they’ve cut back on non-essential items due to childcare costs (67%, vs 62% of those with a HH income over £20k)
  • Say childcare costs mean they’ve taken no holidays away from home (49%, vs 28% of those with a HH income over £20k)
  • Say they stopped doing paid work altogether because of caring responsibilities (37%, vs 11% of those with a HH income over £20k)
  • Say they have undertaken work that is below their level of qualification or experience (34%, vs 19% of those with a HH income over £20k)
  • Say that childcare costs was the biggest factor in a decision to change working commitments (57%, vs 42% of those with a HH income over £20k)
  • Be in support of a Universal Basic Income (70%, vs 59% of those with a HH income over £20k)

Those currently on Universal Credit are significantly more likely to:

  • Say that because of childcare costs they’ve used food banks (13%, vs 1% of those who have never received UC)
  • Say that because of childcare costs they’ve cut back on essential items, eg heating, essential food or clothing, or housing costs (33%, vs 10% of those who have never received UC)
  • Say that their childcare costs are more than their mortgage or rent (42%, vs 32% of those who have never received UC)
  • Say childcare costs mean they’ve used credit cards or credit arrangements to pay for essential items (48%, vs 26% of those who have never received UC)
  • Say childcare costs had a significant impact on their standard of living, or were completely unaffordable (69%, v 47% of those who have never received UC)
  • Think they would have attained more seniority in their work, or earned more, if they had not had childcare considerations (91%, vs 81% of those who have never received UC)
  • Say that they’ve cut back on non-essential items due to childcare costs (73%, vs 60% of those who have never received UC)
  • Say childcare costs mean they’ve taken no holidays away from home (52%, vs 26% of those who have never received UC)
  • Say they stopped doing paid work altogether because of caring responsibilities (34%, vs 10% of those who have never received UC)
  • Say they have undertaken work that is below their level of qualification or experience (31%, vs 18% of those who have never received UC)
  • Say that childcare costs was the biggest factor in a decision to change working commitments (61%, vs 40% of those who have never received UC)
  • Say that difficulty obtaining available childcare that met their needs was a major factor in their decision to change working commitments (70%, vs 47% of those who have never received UC)
  • Be in support of a Universal Basic Income (72%, vs 57% of those who have never received UC).

Mumsnet Founder Justine Roberts said:

These parents are at the sharp end of the UK’s extortionate childcare costs. They’re falling into debt, they’re using credit cards for essential food bills, they’re cutting back on food or using food banks, and in large numbers they’re leaving the workforce or cutting back on their working hours.""On a less serious but pretty joyless note they’re often not able to take any holidays away from their own home, or not spending as much family time together as they’d like because of the need for one or both parents to do second jobs or shift work.""For those few years while their children are pre-schoolers, and especially during the years where they don’t receive any of the ‘free’ nursery hours, many of them are running on empty, financially speaking, and childcare costs are a big part of the problem.

Survey of 20,046 parents in the UK with at least one child aged 18 or under, between 20th July and 31st August 2021. The data is not weighted. 

Survey written and distributed in partnership with Pregnant Then Screwed, the TUC, the Fawcett Society, the Women’s Budget Group, Gingerbread, Working Families, the Fatherhood Institute and Maternity Action, with further distribution assistance from Music Football Fatherhood, Mother Pukka, Tova Leigh, Black Mums Upfront, The Young Women’s Trust, and Cathy Reay (That Single Mum).