There's No Winning – 3 In 4 Women Can't Afford To Work Because Of Childcare Costs

“We don’t just have a cost of living crisis in the UK, we have a cost of working crisis," says Joeli Brearley of Pregnant Then Screwed.
For many mums, it's no longer financially viable to work because childcare costs are so expensive.
Armand Burger via Getty Images
For many mums, it's no longer financially viable to work because childcare costs are so expensive.

A staggering three in four mums (76%) who pay for childcare say it no longer makes financial sense for them to work, according to a damning report centred around the UK’s childcare crisis.

The charity Pregnant Then Screwed heard from 24,000 parents as part of its survey focusing on the knock-on effect of ever-increasing childcare costs.

It found one in 10 parents say their childcare costs are the same or more than their take-home pay per day, while one in four parents (26%) say it’s now more than 75% of their take-home pay.

In what will come as no surprise to any parent currently wading the murky waters of trying to afford childcare in addition to navigating a cost of living crisis, one in three parents say they’ve had to rely on some form of debt to cover childcare costs.

The UK’s childcare costs are now in the top three most expensive across the developed world, according to data from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

The average cost of sending a child under two to nursery is £138 per week if they’re part-time (25 hours) and £263 if they’re full-time (50 hours). But this can vary greatly depending on where you live – one father previously told HuffPost UK they were forking out an eye-watering £2,100 per month to send their daughter to nursery in London four days a week.

Sadly, with costs so high, the new survey revealed four in 10 parents (45%) who use childcare often find themselves choosing between paying for that and household essentials.

To highlight the devastating findings of the report, Pregnant Then Screwed has launched a new campaign, ‘A Cry For Help,’ which uses the sound of a baby’s cry to bring to life the sheer scale of the childcare crisis. The cry will play out from billboards and across Spotify and social media from March 3.

Joeli Brearley, founder and CEO of Pregnant Then Screwed, said: “This is our ultimate cry for help. Parents are at the end of their tether. Many have now left the labour market, or work fewer hours, because our childcare system has been abandoned by this Government.

“We don’t just have a cost of living crisis in the UK, we have a cost of working crisis with one in 10 mothers now paying to go to work; and that’s if they can even secure a childcare place – we’ve lost thousands of providers in the last year because they simply cannot afford to remain open.”

The charity found 96% of families with a child under three years old are likely to vote for the political party with the best childcare pledge in the next election.

Brearly continued: “It’s important to remember that this isn’t just a parenting issue, this is an issue for the whole of society – we are haemorrhaging talented, skilled women from our healthcare sector, from teaching and other vital public services because of our unaffordable, dysfunctional, inaccessible childcare system.”

She called for urgent investment into the sector, something which Neil Leitch, CEO of the Early Years Alliance, has been calling for for some time now.

“It is simply unacceptable that soaring early years costs, driven by years of government underfunding, have not only made it impossible for so many parents to return to work, but have also forced many families turn to extreme measures, such as falling into debt, just to cover costs,” he said.

“Year after year, funding for the so-called ‘free childcare’ offers has failed to keep up with surging costs, leaving nurseries, pre-schools and childminders with no option but to increase fees to stay afloat,” said Leitch.

“The simple fact is that if the sector was properly funded, families would not have to sacrifice their careers to reduce early years costs, and thousands of providers would not be forced to choose between sharp increases in prices during a cost-of-living crisis, or closing completely.”

Becca Lyon, Head of Child Poverty at Save the Children UK, said the survey findings confirm what the charity is hearing from the parents it supports.

“Many of them would love to get back to work or increase their hours, but they simply can’t afford to,” she said.

“We need a childcare guarantee – universally accessible, affordable childcare from the end of parental leave to the end of primary school. This would allow all children to benefit from quality childcare and early education and help parents get into work.”

Funding the childcare sector properly will have positive repercussions for the UK economy, too. As the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) recently pointed out: allowing parents to get back to work can help fill the major worker shortages that are currently holding the economy back.

A group of Tory backbenchers have also reportedly been putting pressure on chancellor Jeremy Hunt to cut the costs of childcare at the budget announcement on March 15.

HuffPost UK has contacted the Department for Education (DfE) about what is being done to support parents and will update this piece when they respond.