Parents struggling with cost of child care in the North East

Parents Hev, Ben and Kimberley told ITV Tyne Tees about their experiences with the cost of childcare. Credit: ITV Tyne Tees

A child care provider has said she is seeing more parents struggling with the cost of childcare - as the Chancellor announced new measures to extend free provision.

Sophie Williams, who runs Woodland Play Patch in Houghton-le-Spring, said she was seeing more parents condensing their hours post-Covid to deal with the problem.

She said: "Predominantly beforehand, it would mainly be mams coming in. After Covid, dads are starting to condense their hours. Mams are condensing their hours as well.

"It's to try and split the childcare."

What was the announcement about childcare in Wednesday's budget?

The government will expand 30 hours of funded childcare in England to begin from the time maternity care ends - when a baby reaches nine months of age.

The change means 'free' childcare will cover one and two-year-olds as well as three and four-year-olds, in eligible households where all adults are working at least 16 hours a week.

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt says the 30 hours offer will now start from the moment maternity or paternity leave ends, and will be introduced in stages to ensure there is enough supply in the childcare market to meet demand.

Working parents of two-year-olds will be able to access 15 hours of funded care from April 2024, and that 15 hours will be extended to all children from 9 months up from September 2024.

From September 2025 every single working parent of under 5s will have access to 30 hours free childcare per week, Mr Hunt confirmed.

The government had faced building pressure to tackle childcare costs so high campaigners have said parents were being forced to leave their jobs.

We asked some of the parents who were with their children at Woodland Play Patch, an indoor play area, about trying to juggle childcare and work.

Dad Ben told ITV Tyne Tees: "It's been quite a struggle. We have a business and my wife has had to find alternative work just to balance things out. We've had to shut the business for the day my wife's at work."

Mum Hev said: "It's been very hard. I thought once I had my son and got over postpartum period I would be able to go back to work."

Mum Kimberley, who now works part-time, added: "It was like having to make a lot of cutbacks to make sure we could afford the cost of nursery. I've gone back part time so I wasn't spending nearly all my entire salary on nursery fees."

While Mr Hunt's announcement on childcare was welcomed by many parents, some nursery owners have voiced concerns about the impact on providers.

Kimberley Allison, who runs Cheeky Chimps Childcare, in Washington, said: "The reason there's such a child care crisis is because of funding - or the lack of funding.

"This is great news for families. As a parent myself with three children I appreciate we can get a lot more parents out to work. Unfortunately what isn't being said is the impact it is going to have on those who are able to offer the spaces."

On Thursday, the chancellor defended the speed of the rollout. He said: "This is the biggest transformation in childcare in my lifetime.

“It is a huge change and we are going to need thousands more nurseries, thousands more schools offering provision they don’t currently offer, thousands more childminders.

“We are going as fast as we can to get the supply in the market to expand."

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