Childcare: 'We spend the same as our mortgage on childcare - it's not sustainable'

Correspondent Alex Hartley speaks to parents and nursery workers about the current state of childcare in Wales

Parents in Wales are "paying as much as their mortgages" in order to remain in the workforce amid increasing costs across the childcare sector.

And nurseries are facing the strain as they juggle the cost of living whilst meeting the needs of parents and children.

Mum-of-three Eliza Bishop said she would have left the workforce if her employer didn't offer a 75% staff discount on childcare.

As a deputy manager at a nursery - a staff discount meant Mum-of-three Eliza could continue to do a job she loves. Credit: Sharp End

She told ITV1's Sharp End that costs to look after her three young children - including twins - would have topped £32,000 a year for four days a week.

"We planned and thought we would have only had two children financially - then by chance the bonus baba came along," she said. "I cried for a week when we found out it was twins thinking ‘how are we going to afford this?’

"I don't know how people do it who don't have family support. We're the lucky ones, we have two sets of grandparents nearby and discount at the nursery. But for some, they’re working just to be able to get out of the house."

Parents collecting their children from Fun Foundations Nursery, in Cowbridge, echoed her concerns.

One mum said: "We spend about the same as we spend on our mortgage - so it's substantial. We're lucky, we both have well paid jobs, so we can both make it but it's not really sustainable going forward."

Another said: "I get help from his grandparents - I wouldn't be able to go to work if I didn't and I'm very thankful for that. But with the childcare costs here, if (my son) had to go full time, then there'd be no point in me going to work.

"There's a discussion we have in the office a lot about whether we'd have another child - but I couldn't do it. Financially we couldn't do the childcare costs."

A dad at the nursery said: "For some of our friends it doesn't actually pay to go to work if their child has to go in full time. For us, we can make it work but it's a lot."

Nursery owner Amy Ferguson tries to keep fees as low as possible, but with rising food and energy bills and increased staffing costs, she says the industry needs more government support to survive too.

She said: "The hourly rate for the childcare offer, which is three to four-year-olds, is £5 per hour. The ratio for three to four-year-olds is one adult to eight children. They are rolling out the two-year-old funding and that’s an hourly rate of £5.60 per hour, the ratio is one adult to four children so it’s not proportionate - it wouldn’t cover the staffing costs.

"We’re struggling enough as it is, our food bill has gone up by 15%, salaries are going up by 18% so that needs to be reflected in that hourly rate."

Amy Ferguson, owner of Fun Foundations Nursery, says fees have increased due to the cost of energy, food and staff wages. Credit: Sharp End

The National Day Nurseries Association says the Welsh Government's funding to nurseries of £5 is "just not sustainable".

Purnima Tanuku, NDNA Cymru’s Chief Executive, said: "The Welsh Government’s commitment to review their funding rates at least every three years is just not going to support the early years sector.

"The Welsh Government needs to commit to reviewing their funding rate for early education and the Childcare Offer on an annual basis instead to keep pace with rising costs.

"If nurseries cannot generate any surplus they are unable to invest in their quality of provision including staff training and resources. They want to give their children the best possible learning experiences but cannot do this if they are struggling just to survive.

"However, nurseries are recognising the difficulties that most households are also facing during this cost of living crisis and are working really hard to keep their fees as low as possible. We would like the Welsh Government to recognise this and make sure the rate paid to providers is covering their costs so parents are not left picking up the shortfall."

Julie Morgan says the state of childcare in Wales is "very promising".

She said: "We've got lots of expansion developing and we've got a very good childcare off - the best in the UK for three and four-year-olds for working parents.

"We're developing childcare provision for two-year-olds which will eventually reach all two-year-olds in Wales, whether parents are working or not. So it's very encouraging and all of that has been very well received.

"Obviously there are challenges in the system and we're very aware that parents are worried about the cost of childcare and of course there are issues of recruitment as it's been traditionally a low paid sector."

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