One-third unable to return to work full time due to childcare costs or availability

childcare costs availability One-third (34%) of mothers in England said they are unable to return to work on a full-time basis due to childcare costs or availability, compared to just 12% of fathers, according to new Pregnant Then Screwed and Women In Data research.

The former surveyed 35,800 parents in England, and the latter then extracted a nationally representative sample of 5,870 parents to create the 2024 State of the nation childcare report.

It found that 20% of mothers are unable to take up a more senior role due to childcare costs and availability, compared to 9% of fathers.

Almost half (46%) of respondents with a child under the age of five accrued debt or had to withdraw money from their savings to pay for childcare, an increase from 35% last year. One-fifth (22%) withdrew money from their pension to pay their childcare bill, and 37% used credit cards, took out a loan or borrowed money from family or friends.

For single parents with a child under five, 67% accrued debt to pay for childcare, while 50% borrowed money and 31% withdrew money from their savings and pension pot. In comparison, 2023 saw 35% relying on some form of debt, 28% borrowed money and 15% withdrew from savings or pensions.

Half (53%) of parents with a child under five spend more than a quarter of their household income on childcare, up 16% from last year, while 19% spend more than half their household income.

One-third (34%) said their childcare provider has a waiting list longer than nine months, while just 13% had no issue with availability.

Three in 10 (35%) thought that childcare costs will be less of an issue in 2024 due to childcare schemes announced by the government, reduced to 15% of single parents and 27% of Asian parents. As many as 90% did not believe the government’s promise that childcare costs will reduce, while 23% could not afford to access free childcare hours due to top up fees charged by nurseries for nappies and food.

Joeli Brearley, chief executive officer and founder of Pregnant Then Screwed, said: “The government has promised parents that they will soon be able to access more affordable childcare, but this will only be successful if the scheme doesn’t bankrupt childcare providers.

“We’ve already seen that the roll out of the new funding has not been straightforward with many parents still waiting to hear if they will be able to secure a funded place, while many others are complaining that cost savings are minimal due to significant price increases for childcare costs outside of the funded hours.”