Holiday childcare costs have risen by 4% across Britain since last summer, with mums and dads now paying £133 on average for just one week during the school break. According to The Family and Childcare Trust’s annual survey, the summer holiday now comes with an average price tag of £800 for six weeks of holiday childcare per child.
A separate report from Post Office Money points out that even if parents are able to look after children themselves, they’re estimated to spend around £594 just keeping them entertained. The charity Community Money Advice warns the summer holidays can place a particular burden on families already in debt, with extra meals for children who usually receive free school meals, activities, day trips and childcare being the main causes of financial problems.
We spoke to parents in Cambridge city centre about their childcare concerns and how they’re planning to manage over the summer.
Anna Ruggles-Brise 37 - three children aged seven, four and one.
“I run a family business, but I’ll be pausing on work during the summer holidays and only doing work in the evenings. The cost of childcare has contributed to that decision, but also it’s nice to have time with kids at home while I can.
“Our outgoings will still probably be higher than usual entertaining the children at home, but childcare is expensive and it’s quite a commitment. My oldest son is going to a sports club here and there for a few days, it’s only £10 a day, which I think is pretty reasonable - it’s why I signed him up to that one.”
Menna Raafat, 32 - two children, one in school and one in nursery.
“I work part-time as a project manager so managing childcare during the summer holidays is quite hard. This is our first year having to deal with it, so we’re trying things out - they’ll be at a summer camp for two weeks, with my parents for two weeks and then we go away for two weeks.
“The camps will cost a lot, around £350-£400 for the two weeks, but we don’t have many other options. All of the camps are the same price, so for working parents it’s quite challenging to find anything affordable. It’s a big problem. I’m quite worried for the future - my youngest is in nursery now so childcare during term time is slightly easier, but during the summer holidays I will always be paying double.”
Crystal Richards, 32 - three children aged nine, four and 18 months.
“My nine-year-old is in school and my four-year-old son goes in the afternoons, but I’ll be looking after them at home once the summer holidays start. I don’t work because childcare is just too expensive – and that’s a problem for me. With what I can get in, even if I work 16 hours a day, most of it would go on childcare, especially during the school holidays.
“I do worry about the school holidays because I think ‘how am I supposed to entertain my kids?’ they’re just going to be at home miserable, crying and probably fighting with each other. No matter what you do, even if you go to the park, it always costs something, there will be an expense somewhere. It’s hard.
“My brother is going to take my eldest away camping a couple of times so he doesn’t get too bored and my other brother is taking him fishing, which helps a lot.”
Julie Mcelhinney, 40 - three children ages three, two and two-weeks-old.
“My eldest two currently go to a childminder, the eldest is now eligible for the 30 hours free childcare, which has made a huge difference to our outgoings, and she’ll be going to a school nursery in September. We’re currently looking at around £1,000 per month for the two of them to go to a child minder during term time, so it’s quite costly.
“I’m not too worried about the cost of the summer holidays as they get older because I’m a school teacher and so is my husband. We’re both off for the whole break so thankfully, we’re alright in that way.”
Patricia Pearce, 37 – six children aged 10, nine, seven, five, two and six months.
“I’m a teacher so I’ll be looking after them all during the summer holidays. I teach at the school where they go, so I know I’ve got it quite easy in terms of childcare compared to other parents - they can come to work with me and they can also stay after school finishes. My two-year-old will start pre-school in September when I go back to work and thankfully, my mum is going to look after my youngest.
“The summer holidays are still always very expensive though, especially with six to pay for. I reckon we spend around £500 over the six-week holiday on entertainment and that’s without a holiday abroad. Just one day out at the zoo for us can cost around £100, so that’s just not doable, unfortunately.
“The break is stressful to pay for, we can’t save much during the year, but we try and make do. It’s good when the weather’s nice because you don’t have to spend loads of money on soft play and horrible things like that to keep them entertained.”