How much of your income do you spend on childcare?

And the latest campaign that's calling for an independent review

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Early one morning last week, I logged onto Twitter and saw that Grazia had teamed up with Pregnant Then Screwed to launch a campaign calling for a government review of our childcare system. Then almost simultaneously, I received an email from my son’s nursery informing us that they were increasing their rates. Their already extortionate rates, I may add.

Currently we pay £1200 a month for three days of childcare each week. Yes, we live in London and yes, we’re really happy with our nursery, but should it really cost this much just to be able to work?

I think it’s also important to add that while we pay for three formal days of nursery a week, I work more or less full time. But it just wouldn’t make sense to pay any more. So, I work flexibly, as I know many of you do too - I get up early, work at the weekend, or when I can catch a minute. It’s exhausting but doable and something that many other parents just don’t have the option of.

When I received the email from our nursery, I replied – directing my response to the CEO – informing them of Grazia’s recent campaign, the pressure such rising costs are putting on working parents and why they felt the price hike was necessary - especially after a global pandemic that has already put plenty of pressure on parents over the past year. I also asked what the extra money will be spent on and that I hoped that some of it would go towards an increase in pay for their early years staff - a sector notorious for its low salaries.

In fact, Nursery World reports that a survey that looked into the financial situation of the childcare workforce found that while 50% of respondents earn less than £17,000 per year, 14% have a total household income of that amount - leaving them officially unable to make ends meet. So where are nursery fees actually going?

The nursery manager called me back, told me she totally understood as a working mum herself and tried to explain the rise in fees, but she didn’t know if the CEO would ever reply. Quelle surprise. Perhaps he was too busy counting his money.

But it's these continually rising costs that are exactly what Grazia and Pregnant Then Screwed’s campaign is hoping to challenge with an independent investigation. Grazia states that in Britain, we have the second most expensive childcare in the world. That’s over 35% of the average family’s income and for many women, this just doesn't end up making sense. No wonder so many feel forced to either drop out of the workforce, reduce their hours or change jobs completely at a cost to their careers.

But how do we compare to other countries and is this just a UK problem? Grazia reports that this year’s annual report by the Coram Family and Childcare Trust found that 25 hours of nursery care for a child under two costs an average of £138 per week, or over £7,000 per year – that’s 4% more than a year ago. For a child aged two, it now costs 5% more.

In the UK, things get a little easier when children turn three and parents are helped out with either 30 or 15 hours of free childcare. But let’s compare this to countries such as Sweden where all children over the age of one can attend full-time preschool and fees are capped at 3% of parental income.

Grazia's research also found that in Germany and Korea, things are also significantly better than in the UK. Children over the age of one in Germany are entitled to a place in a state-provided nursery at a low cost to parents, while in Korea, where the system is entirely state-subsidised, parents pay nothing at all. Can you even imagine that kind of support?

It comes as no real surprise that when childcare is properly subsidised in this way, and considered an essential part of our infrastructure, that it's not just women's careers that thrive but the economy as a whole. But instead of helping more mothers stay in work, the UK government actually reduced its childcare funding last December which led to the predicted closure of 30,000 nurseries – right in the middle of a pandemic.

Pregnant Then Screwed's research goes some way to show the extent of that damage. The charity reported that 15% of working mothers either have been, or expect to be, made redundant since the start of the pandemic due to the demands lockdown restrictions placed on them.

So, what can we do to make the government listen and acknowledge the impact years of underfunding is having on our children, the economy and women’s equality? Grazia and Pregnant Then Screwed need 100,000 signatures by Tuesday in order for the government to debate the issue in parliament. They were at 90,458 at the time of writing so every single signature counts.

Please consider adding your name to the petition here and share, share, share!

How much of your income goes towards childcare and has your nursery recently increased its fees? I'd love to hear from you so drop me an email below and join in the conversation I'll be starting tomorrow in The Freelance Parent Facebook group.

Until next time.

Cat x

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