The Government has released its Childcare and Early Years Survey of Parents 2019, reporting a rise in the number of families that found it “difficult” or “very difficult” to meet their childcare costs. In conjunction with this survey, new researchledbychildcareplatform, Yoopies UK, reveals that the UK ranks int he top three most expensive countries for childcare in Europe, surpassing the price of UK University tuition fees.
Unaffordable Childcare for a quarter of parents
During the election, childcare was called “the holy grail” a nd parties offered ambitious proposals to improve the affordability of childcare. Better funding of the Early Years Sector and improvements of Government-funded schemes were promised by all parties, and with good reason; Government research published yesterday revealed that over “one-quarter (27%) of parents” found meeting childcare costs “difficult or very difficult, a rise from 23% in 2018.”
There is an incongruity between the number of families using formal childcare and the perceptions surrounding its affordability. Over a third of families continue to use formal childcare. Yet, parents admitted that if they were to improve local childcare provisions, they were most likely to want “more affordable childcare (38%, a 4% rise from 2018) and more childcare in the school holidays”. This suggests families are using formal childcare out of necessity, but cost-effective and flexible-hour reform is wanted.
The survey also reveals a rise in the number of children cared for by their grandparents (29% in 2019, up from 25% in 2018). Yoopies user and parent Emma admits, “I’ve had to ask my parents to take care of my son during the week to save on childcare costs. But not everyone has family close-by who can or are willing to help.” In 2019, more than three-fifths of mothers are in work, contributing to significant changes in traditional family structure. However, well under half of parents (42%) rated the affordability of local childcare as “very or fairly good”, raising the question of how working parents in the other 58% juggle their career and childcare costs.
UK Childcare: The Most Expensive in Europe?
Despite the calls for more affordable childcare, a Yoopies study reveals that British parents pay far more than their European neighbours. Without taking Government aid schemes into account, the UK is the s econd most expensive country for childminding services, with parents forking out on average £858 a month. This exorbitant figure is £1046 higher than a year’s worth of University tuition (£9250), despite being a cheaper alternative to nurseries. The most expensive country is Switzerland (£958), in third place is the Netherlands (£663) and in fourth place, France (£435).
Government aid schemes significantly reduce childcare costs across Europe, meaning parents in Europe are paying a fraction of what British parents pay. Even after child benefit deductions, the UK remains the second most expensive country, with families paying £370 a month on average. That’s three times more expensive than in France, which jumps from the fourth most expensive country, to the cheapest. Francesca Chong, General Manager of Yoopies UK notes: “There is a big difference between the average price of care on our UK site vs our other sites in France, Spain and Germany. Even after Government-aid deductions, parents can expect to pay more than double than that of their European counterparts.”
UK Childcare Benefits: The Most Inaccessible in Europe?
Not only are Government aid schemes less beneficial for parents in the UK than in Europe, obtaining financial aid is a lengthy and unclear process for parents in the UK as well. For some UK families, the cost of childcare exceeds the support available, meaning parents are paying more in childcare costs than they are earning. For other eligible families, navigating access to childcare benefits is such a minefield, that parents opt out or are simply unaware of potential funding available to them. The Government revealed the most common reason for not applying to the 30 hours scheme, was that they “didn’t think they were eligible.”
Countries such as France already offer integrated booking and payment systems directly into their childcare benefit schemes, allowing parents to instantly use their allowances as discounts on their childcare payments. Parents in the UK, however, continue to have a fragmented experience when accessing childcare benefits, with multiple entry points to access aid and complex paperwork. To improve perceptions of affordability there is a real need for better funding, streamlining and educating of current schemes if they are to be beneficial for the modern family.