Parents Are Utterly Terrified At The Prospect Of Nursery Fees Going Up

Some parents have already witnessed fees rising to more than £2,000 per month.
SBenitez via Getty Images

Parents have been left reeling by news that already extortionate nursery fees may rise by a further £1,000 this year.

A survey of nurseries, pre-schools and childminders by the Early Years Alliance found an overwhelming majority of the 1,150 respondents (89%) are considering increasing their fees this year by around 8% because of soaring costs and inadequate government funding.

On top of that, almost seven in 10 providers are planning to either increase or introduce charges for optional extras such as meals or trips.

A mum with four-month-old twins says she is “terrified” by the potential increase in costs.

“We have no family nearby and the idea of trying to pay for two in nursery is horrendous,” Hayley Peters tells HuffPost UK.

With a 10% sibling discount and tax-free childcare it will cost the family, who are based in Hove, over £1,700 a month to put their children in nursery for four days a week.

“That doesn’t account for any further rises which is what is terrifying,” says Peters, who is currently on maternity leave.

The 36-year-old and her partner rent a two bedroom property, where they live with their three children. They’d love to buy their own house, but the cost of childcare is preventing them from doing so.

Vish Burgul, from London, has already seen his daughter’s nursery fees rise from £1,800 per month to an eye-watering £2,100 per month.

His two-year-old was in nursery five days a week (40 hours) but when the fees rose they reduced this to four days to save some money – especially as they’d recently launched a business, online family marketplace bndle.

This has meant both he and his partner now juggle Fridays caring for their daughter, while also working.

Rebecca Leppard, 39, and her husband have three children aged three, six and 10. Her youngest daughter has been in nursery since she was two, spending 40 hours there every week.

“Back before we qualified for the 30-hour funding ... it used to cost us about £1,200 per month,” says Leppard, who is the founder of Upgrading Women and lives in Southampton.

The nursery had to increase its fees last year, so Leppard is hopeful they won’t rise again this year. If they do, she suggests it might force either her or her husband out of the workforce.

One of the biggest sacrifices they’ve had to make to afford childcare since their daughter started attending nursery was cutting down on heating. “We rarely use heating and just wear thermal and loads of blankets at night,” she says.

“Any financial planner would advise against this cost of living structure. And any person with a calculator will not be able to fathom how parents can afford to live at all after paying rent and nursery.”

With the 30-hour funding provided by the government she estimates they now pay about £600 per month – but with the increasing cost of living, even that’s a stretch.

Parents in the UK face some of the most expensive childcare costs among leading economies, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). It’s no wonder then that many face “worrying levels” of debt.

Allegra Chapman, 39, lives with her husband and their two children. The oldest, who is four, has started school (‘thankfully,’ says the mum), while the youngest is two and at nursery two days a week.

Chapman, who is self-employed, says this is all her family can afford. Thankfully she has help as her mum moved from Warwickshire to West Sussex when she gave birth to her first child. She now looks after her youngest grandchild two days a week.

“Without her, I genuinely don’t know what we’d do,” says Chapman, who is co-creator of a diversity and inclusion consultancy called Watch This Sp_ce. “We can’t afford more nursery days, but we can’t afford for me not to work.”

She is not sure whether their nursery fees are set to increase, but says if they do it will be “a challenge”.

“We would definitely have to make cutbacks somewhere. I worry that would mean less clubs and activities for both children, or not being able to go on holiday – we’re only going on infrequent small trips in the UK or occasionally staying with friends in Europe as it is,” she says, “and I think these are really valuable experiences that I don’t want them to miss out on.”

More than a third of pre-schools, nurseries and childminders say it’s likely that rising costs will force the closure of their setting within the next year.

Over recent years, government funding for the free childcare offers has failed to keep up with increases in the national living and minimum wages, said the Early Years Alliance, alongside other cost pressures such as rising energy costs and wider inflation. This has put considerable pressure on the sector.

The overall number of childcare providers in England dropped by around 4,000 between March 2021 and March 2022, according to figures from Ofsted.

It’s perhaps understandable then that fees need to go up – but with some parents forking out more money than their mortgage payments each month, something is clearly going very wrong.

For parents-to-be watching from the sidelines, the rising childcare costs – amid the rising cost of living – is causing added stress.

“I’m currently pregnant with my first child (due in April) and I’m genuinely scared about what this will mean for us,” says Kirsty Oliver, who is based in Gloucester.

The 27-year-old says she was made redundant partway through her pregnancy, and although she’s grateful to be able to receive statutory maternity pay when she goes on leave, “it’s nowhere near” what she was expecting.

“So our finances will already have taken a massive hit, and now with rising childcare costs, I do wonder whether I’ll even be able to afford to go back to work,” she admits.

Where she lives, she estimates it would cost more than £1,000 a month in nursery fees for her to go back to work full-time, “which is huge considering how much everything has increased by”.

Mums are being forced out of work in their droves because of sky-high childcare costs and lack of flexible work opportunities. This time last year, a survey of almost 27,000 parents with young children found the cost of childcare had driven 43% of mums to consider leaving their jobs.

The sad reality is that women are not just considering this – many do leave. A staggering 84% of the 1.75 million people who’ve given up work to care for their family are women, according to ONS data.

Viktorcvetkovic via Getty Images

“I work in diversity and inclusion, and we talk to clients a lot about what they can do to support working parents to help keep them in their jobs,” says Chapman.

“So many parents – mothers especially – are being forced out of work because of the costs and demands of childcare, and that’s bad for business.

“The cost of recruiting replacements is exorbitant and that’s a lot of skills, knowledge and expertise that walks out the door with that employee.”

She adds: “If all the mothers who want to work, but are being prevented from doing so because of childcare costs, were able to work, it would generate billions for the economy. Yet instead of helping them, the government plans to write them all a chipper letter?! It’s not exactly good financial sense.”

The mum-of-two refers to a proposal from ministers to woo mothers back to work with a “letter writing campaign”. When the plan was first floated – via an article in The Sun – it was blasted by parents who pointed out the exorbitant cost of childcare was the main barrier for them returning to work.

Nearly all of the early years providers surveyed (99%) said the government isn’t providing enough financial support to them.

Neil Leitch, CEO of the Early Years Alliance, said the industry is in crisis and the findings show “current levels of government funding are nowhere near enough to support the delivery of affordable, sustainable quality care and education”.

“As a result, nurseries, pre-schools and childminders are being left with an impossible choice: substantially increase fees for parents and carers or go out of business altogether,” he added.

“Enough is enough. Providers deserve better, parents deserve better and, crucially, children deserve better.”

In response to the survey, a Department for Education spokesperson told Sky News:We recognise that families and early years providers across the country are facing financial pressures and we are currently looking into options to improve the cost, flexibility, and availability of childcare.

“We have spent more than £20bn over the past five years to support families with the cost of childcare and the number of places available in England has remained stable since 2015, with thousands of parents benefitting from this.”