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Monday, 27 February 2012 22:53

Childcare bills outstrip mortgage payments for growing number of families as parents pay up to 2,000 a month

Written by  Jonathan Lord
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Childcare bills are outstripping mortgage payments for growing numbers of families, a survey has revealed. It found childcare costs have risen faster than inflation for the tenth successive year, with fees soaring as high as 2,000 a month.

And it said that while mortgage payments have largely held steady, nursery costs have risen 5.8 per cent for under-twos and 3.9 per cent for older children.

With fuel and food prices also rising but salaries stagnating, working families are finding it harder than ever to afford childcare, according to research by the Daycare Trust charity.

Its study found that the average cost of 25 hours' nursery care about three days a week for a child under two is 102, rising to 126 in London.

For older children, where staff-to-child ratios are larger, costs are slightly lower, averaging 97 for 25 hours.

But some nurseries, particularly in areas where places are scarce, have been found charging more than double the average cost.

The most expensive nursery uncovered by the survey, which was in London, charged 300 for 25 hours' care, or about 24,000 a year for a full-time place. The fees put it on a par with prestigious boarding schools.

Jill Rutter, research manager for the Daycare Trust, a national charity that campaigns for more high-quality affordable childcare, said: 'If you have got two children in childcare in the South of England, you are likely to be paying a similar amount, or more, than your mortgage.

'Mortgages have stayed steady because of interest rates but, as the survey shows, we have seen year-on-year above-inflation rises in childcare costs.

'The combination of escalating living costs, stagnant wages and above-inflation increases in nursery costs have placed considerable financial pressure on families.'

She warned that in areas where demand for places is most intense particularly in London parents were adding their names to nursery waiting lists almost from the moment of conception.

More than half of councils in England admit there is not enough local childcare to cater for all parents who work full-time. Even fewer have enough care for parents working irregular hours.

The findings will be shown in a BBC Panorama documentary tonight which examines the escalating costs and diminishing availability of Britain's daycare services.

One mother, Claire Porter, a senior burns nurse in Leicester, tells the programme how her childcare bill for two children is as big as her mortgage. She said: 'It's a real financial burden. We do have to budget to enable us to pay our childcare fees. The pressure on us is immense.'

Meanwhile government research has suggested pre-school education needs to be of a high quality if it is to boost children's development. But Panorama reveals that in many areas there isn't enough childcare judged 'good' or above by Ofsted. In Wakefield, for example, nearly 40 per cent of nurseries and childminders currently fall below that standard, according to its latest inspection results.

Last modified on Wednesday, 29 February 2012 23:25
Jonathan Lord

Jonathan Lord

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