Soaring childcare costs raise issue of affordability

The government has come under renewed pressure to look at the affordability of childcare, as well as availability, following publication of the latest figures on the costs involved.

The new survey of childcare costs across England, Scotland and Wales by the childcare charity the Daycare Trust reveals that the average full-time nursery place for a child under two in Great Britain now costs £142 a week, more than £7,300 a year. This compares with average weekly earnings last year of £431.

For parents paying the highest costs, this annual childcare bill rises to almost £21,000 for a full-time place.

Although the Childcare Bill currently going through Parliament would place a new duty on local authorities to ensure sufficient provision of childcare for all working families in their areas from 2008, the Daycare Trust points out that it fails to address the issue of affordability.

“The government has worked hard to make more childcare places available for parents. But now we urgently need a review of the funding system for childcare to ensure that all children have access to good quality services, regardless of their family income,” said the charity’s chief executive, Christine Walton.

The Daycare Trust wants to see an independent review of the whole early education and childcare funding system carried out for the 2007 spending review. It is also calling on the government to phase out the reliance on tax credits as a means of paying for childcare, and for their attention to switch instead to investing more in providers.

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