Get childcare wrong and we all pay the cost

In stark terms - most parents buying full-time care are paying between 20 and 30% of their income on it.

The current situation bolts too many families into financial hardship - because high childcare costs mean they simply can't make working pay.

The average spending on childcare across developed countries is 12% of income, whereas in the UK it is 26%. Credit: PA

189 local authorities were surveyed for a new report showing the increasing expense of having children looked after:

  • The cost of two children in full time childcare now averages £11,700
  • That easily surpoases the average mortgage which is now £7,207 a year
  • Over the last five years the cost has gone up £1,214

There is help available - but there are gaps.

For example in England three and four year olds (and children from the lowest income homes) get 15 hours of care free over 38 weeks of the year.

Plus, there is help from the Working Tax Credits which have a childcare element - though this tapers off for people earning above £16,000 a year.

The new study today shows that childcare costs have risen more than inflation every year since 2002. Credit: PA

Some employers offer childcare vouchers - though not all, and not all nurseries accept them. Overall, last year the Government said a billion pounds more would go into childcare.

Yet international comparisons show parents here are paying more of their earnings. The average across developed countries is 12% of income, whereas here it is 26% - only the Swiss pay more.

The conclusion is clear. If we get this wrong it means parents - especially mums - shut out of employment, their skills lost to the workforce, and families needing to be helped by the taxpayer.