Soaring childcare costs in UK to hit hard-up parents this summer

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The Guardian

The cost of childcare over the holidays is likely to be the highest on record this summer as providers of activity camps and other paid-for care are forced to put up prices, while others have gone out of business altogether.

A leading national charity concerned with childcare and family issues said that a cocktail of rising costs, including higher utility bills, food prices and national insurance contributions is contributing to pressures on holiday care providers.

“Providers are struggling to make ends meet and balance their books in the face of the cost of living crisis,” said Ellen Broomé, the managing director of Coram Family and Childcare. “Obviously, we’re seeing record levels of inflation across the economy. I think it is very likely all of that will translate into record prices for childcare this summer.”

The charity is due to release its 17th annual survey into the cost of holiday childcare on Tuesday.

Because a number of childcare providers have gone out of business since last year, there are also likely to be fewer places available and the places that are left have become more expensive.

Some parents – particularly in rural areas – are scrabbling around to find any childcare at all. “Quite a lot of providers didn’t make it through the pandemic,” said Broomé. “They were already operating at the margins, and the cost pressures were just too much.”

Providers have also closed because demand for childcare in some areas has fallen outside school holidays as more parents work from home for some or all of the working week, Broomé said. “Patterns of working have changed over the pandemic.”

Other families simply cannot afford to pay the high price of childcare. “People have been forced to rely on family and friends.”

Anyone, however, who does need or want childcare over the summer holidays should expect to pay more than they ever have before, and to travel further to find it. “It’s going to be a really challenging summer for parents,” said Broomé.

She expects a proportion of parents – particularly single parents – will end up paying just to go to work during the summer holidays, due to the cost of holiday childcare. “They will make no money or have to pay to stay in work.”

In Hertfordshire, Chloe and Scott Sweden are about to spend £350 a week to send their two children, Lana, nine, and Taylor, seven, to a summer camp for five-and-a-half hours a day.

Each parent will take an hour out of their day to drive the children there and back, because their usual holiday camp provider – which was much closer – has closed down. “When you add in the cost of petrol and their lunches, it’s extortionate,” Chloe said.

Last year, it would probably have cost her about £100 less a week, she estimates. Chloe works from home, running her own business, a benefits app called Plants + Perks that rewards employees for making sustainable choices, and is trying to save up to buy an electric car.

Unable to afford to pay more than one week of camp, she has decided to keep the children at home with her for most of the summer. “Luckily, my daughter likes coding on her computer and my son loves watching TV.”

Even so, she is dreading having to balance working and looking after them. “I have to work all summer because I’m launching a free version of my app in September, and I know they will come in and disturb me frequently. I’ll have to say to every person I have a business meeting with, ‘I’m sorry, I don’t have childcare’, the children might pop in. That will be the caveat with every single conversation I have.”

She also feels guilty about how her children are spending their summer in front of screens. “It feels awful, because during the pandemic they were basically on screens. There’s all this pressure, too, to make the summer amazing for them, an idyllic summer holiday they will always remember. I feel quite stressed.”

July 17, 2022 at 04:39PM Donna Ferguson

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