No wonder it is expensive to bring up children. In January 2012, childcare costs were a whopping £63,099 of a total cost of raising a child until their 21st birthday of £218,000.
A recent report by Conservative MP Elizabeth Truss shone a spotlight on this; the report said UK has the second highest costs of childcare in Europe: 26.6% of average family incomes, or 40.9% of the average UK wage.
Truss sees a solution in simplified regulation — freeing up workers to care for more children at the same time.
Under current rules there has to be one carer for three children aged five or younger. Truss wants a ratio of 1:5. She argues that the current ratio limits the income of childcarers (an average £11,000 a year), lowering quality and pushing up prices.
Chief executive of the Daycare Trust Anand Shulka argued that changing the ratio would force nurseries to increase childcarer salaries, but, since that cost would be passed on to parents, it would not help parents. In reality, salaries probably won’t increase but the profits of private childcare companies will.
More worrying, the changed ratio would inevitably reduce the quality of childcare and the amount of engagement and interaction children receive.
The Department for Education says it is investing in free early years education, and the government guarantees 15 hours per week free childcare/education. But the choice of childcare and overall support for bringing up children has been undermined by cuts to maternity grants and child benefits and closures of Sure Start centres and after-school clubs (hit by local authority spending cuts).
Increasingly, parents won’t be worrying about the quality of childcare, but whether they can use it at all. In the last two years, 24% of mothers have left work, and 16% have reduced their hours, because childcare costs are too expensive.
More than a third of UK parents rely on “informal” childcare arrangements: grandparents and other relatives — arrangements which break down when family circumstances change (e.g., when grandparents get ill).
Social isolation and loss of independence are the consequence of women of all generations bearing the burden of childcare cuts and spiraling costs.