Money Wellness
Image of a toddler surrounded by toys at nursery. Half of parents have got into debt because of childcare costs
category iconcost of living
calendar icon23 Feb 2024

Nearly half of parents have got into debt to pay for childcare

Research from the charity Pregnant Then Screwed has revealed a huge rise in childcare debt, with 45.9% of parents surveyed with children under 5 saying they have got into debt or had to withdraw money from their savings to pay for childcare – up 30% from 32.5% last year.

The report, delivered in partnership with Women In Data, shows 37.1% of parents with children under school age had to use credit cards, take out a loan or borrow money from family and friends. The figure rises sharply for single parents with a child under 5, with almost two-thirds (66.5%) having got into debt to pay for childcare.

Half of parents (53%) say they spend more than a quarter of their household income on childcare - up 16% from last year - whilst one in five (19.2%) say they spend more than half their household income on childcare.

But Pregnant Then Screwed found that cost wasn’t the only barrier.

A third - 34% - of parents said their childcare provider has waiting lists longer than nine months and only 13% felt there wasn’t an issue with childcare availability near them.

The issue of cost and availability continues to have a negative impact on the economy and on gender equality, with a third (33.6%) of mothers in England unable to return to work full-time due to childcare costs or availability, compared to just 11.9% of fathers. And 20% of mothers are unable to take up more senior roles due to childcare costs and availability compared to 8.8% of fathers.

Joeli Brearley CEO and founder of Pregnant Then Screwed, said: “We’ve not only got a cost-of-living crisis, we’ve got a cost of working crisis that disproportionately impacts mothers.”

Worryingly, the cost of childcare continues to price parents out of growing their family with 85% of parents agreeing with the statement – ‘I tend to view childcare costs as prohibitive of having more children.’

And even more devastatingly, a huge 52.5% of mothers who have had an abortion either somewhat agree or absolutely agree with the statement – ‘I believe that the cost of childcare was the primary reason for me to terminate a pregnancy.’

The government has pledged a reduction in childcare costs starting 1 April. However only 35% of parents in England agree with the statement – ‘I think childcare costs will be less of an issue for my family in 2024 due to childcare schemes announced by the government.’

Even fewer single parents agreed with this statement, with only 15% feeling positive. Ethnic minorities are also less confident with only 27% of Asian parents believing childcare costs will be less of a worry once the schemes are underway.

And even when a family is eligible for free hours and there are places available, almost a quarter (23%) said they still couldn’t afford to access those hours because of the top up fees charged by nurseries for sundry items, such as nappies and food.

Avatar of Caroline Chell

Caroline Chell

Caroline has worked in financial communications for more than 10 years, writing content on subjects such as pensions, mortgages, loans and credit cards, as well as stockbroking and investment advice.

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