Calls for ‘radical overhaul’ in childcare system

Mothers returning from maternity leave 'should be offered flexible conditions to allow them to re enter the work place at the appropriate level'.
Mothers returning from maternity leave 'should be offered flexible conditions to allow them to re enter the work place at the appropriate level'.
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FAMILIES hit by spiralling childcare costs in Yorkshire are finding “it simply does not pay to work”, according to campaigners who want urgent and radical reform.

A report out today says that childcare prices have continued to soar despite heavy Government spending.

The cost of sending a toddler to nursery part-time has risen by around a third in some parts of the country, with parents now having to pay £6,000 a year on average.

Overall, average prices in Yorkshire are the cheapest in the country but in prosperous areas can be up to 20 per cent higher.

In general, prices have continued to increase at levels above the rate of inflation, the report reveals.

The findings are contained in the Family and Childcare Trust’s latest annual survey of childcare costs.

It found that it now costs around £115.45 on average to send a child aged under two to nursery for 25 hours a week - a total of £6,003 per year.

This is the first time that these costs have broken through this barrier and represents a 5.1 per cent increase on last year.

The average cost in Yorkshire is £96 but prices can vary by as much as £63.

Trust chief executive Stephen Dunmore called on political parties to commit themselves to reform.

“During this Parliament we have welcomed extra support for parents through the new tax free voucher scheme and a commitment to raise the amount of childcare support in Universal Credit.

“But, if childcare costs continue to rise at this pace, the benefits of this new financial support to parents will be quickly eroded.

“In spite of several positive initiatives, including more funding for free early education, the childcare system needs radical reform.

“We want to see all political parties commit to an independent review of childcare. Britain needs a simple system that promotes quality, supports parents and delivers for children.”

Organisations representing nurseries blamed the Government’s free nursery places scheme for forcing businesses to put prices up.

Huddersfield-based National Day Nurseries Association said the money childcare providers received to deliver free childcare places fell short by an average of £800 per child per year for each funded place for three and four-year-olds.

York nursery owner Helen Gration said some nurseries were struggling to stay afloat because of poor funding rates imposed by local authorities.

Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg will today outline his party’s plans to offer working parents of very young children 15 hours of free early education a week, saving families about £2,600 a year.