Costs of childcare are ‘crippling’, a survey from Pregnant Then Screwed campaigners shows


More than a third of parents who return to work make a financial loss or just break even due to the unaffordable cost of childcare, mother’s rights campaign survey finds.

Childcare costs are ‘crippling’ for parents, a survey by campaigning group Pregnant Then Screwed has found.

The survey of more than 6,000 parents:

  • 5 per cent of those who return to work, only just break even or make a financial loss due to the cost of child care
  • 7 per cent of those who return to work either work fewer hours, have changed jobs due or stopped working due to child care costs (8 per cent do not work due to the cost of child care)
  • The average cost of paid for child care for under threes varies across the country, with London being the most expensive – an average £73.97 per day, and Northern Ireland being the cheapest – an average £42.31 per day.

The mean average daily cost of childcare for under threes was £53.55 per day, but this rises to £73.97 in London (equating to £369.85 for five days) while the average person took home £465 after tax per week according to the Office for National Statistics (2020).

UK world’s second most expensive childcare system
Pregnant Then Screwed said the research demonstrated that the OECD was correct in stating that ‘the UK has the second most expensive childcare system in the world’. Using average income and average daily cost of childcare, the average person could spend 53 per cent of their income on childcare – using the figures above. In April 2019, OECD stated that the average person spent 35.7 per cent of income on childcare.

Parents in the East of England are most impacted by the cost of childcare, with 40 per cent stating that earnings do not cover costs or are completely used on childcare costs.
Parents in Northern Ireland are faring the best, with 23 per cent stating that their earnings are not covering their  childcare costs, according to the survey.


Joeli Brearley, founder of Pregnant Then Screwed, said the childcare system was
‘not working for parents and we know it’s not working for providers’.

She said the survey found 8 per cent respondents had not returned to work due to childcare costs, and for those who had: 47.2 per cent work fewer hours, 18.1 per cent work more hours and 11.2 per cent have had to change jobs because of the cost.

‘The cost is catastrophic for all, whether you’re a cleaner, teacher, or a lawyer; and our case studies demonstrate it is not just a subset of society that is suffering but all, and regardless of location too,’ she said.

For those on Universal Credit, the picture is bleaker because ‘there is no support in helping women get back to work’, the campaign group said.

The cost of childcare also varies drastically from region to region; with London being the most expensive and Northern Ireland being the cheapest option at £42.31 a day for under threes.  

Commenting on the findings, Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Early Years Alliance, said, ‘We know that for many parents, returning to work after having children is becoming less and less financially viable due to the high cost of childcare in this country.

‘But this will not, and cannot, change until the Government tackles the long-running issue of early years underfunding. 

‘Every year, nurseries, pre-schools and childminders see their costs rise as a result of increases in the national living and minimum wages, rent and mortgage costs, insurance premiums and a range of other business costs – and yet, for years now, government funding has failed to keep up with this.’ 

Mr Leitchsaid as a result, many providers had no choice but to increase parent fees ‘to try and plug this widening funding gap – and it is those parents of younger children, who are not eligible for any government schemes – who have seen the biggest impact’.

He said that while the Alliance fully recognises the stress and pressure that these costs place on working families, ‘rushing to call for so-called “free” childcare schemes to be extended to younger children isn't the answer – because if the Government funds this as poorly as they have been funding the existing offers, the early years sector in this country simply will not survive’.

He added, ‘If we truly want to support parents to be able to access affordable, sustainable and quality early years care and education, we as a country must invest what is needed.’

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