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East Anglia: Does it pay to work? Childcare costs more than average mortgage

PUBLISHED: 09:31 04 March 2014 | UPDATED: 09:31 04 March 2014

Nursery rated as Outstanding by Ofsted inspectors

Nursery rated as Outstanding by Ofsted inspectors

The cost of part-time childcare in our region now exceeds average monthly mortgage repayments, new figures have revealed.

Parents now pay more for childcare than any other household bills, including mortgage bills, forcing many mothers to stay at home rather than return to work.

A report by The Family and Childcare Trust reveals how a family of two children in the east of England - with one child in part-time nursery care and another in an after school club - pay £7,762 a year for childcare.

This compares to average regional mortgage repayments of £6,623.

Full-time childcare costs £11,719 a year, which is 77 per cent higher than the average mortgage in the east of England.

With childcare costs responsible for a significant slice of earnings, many families cannot afford for both parents to work.

In other circumstances, by the time the mother has paid for childcare, she barely has any money left over.

Mother-of-three Hayley Stopher, from Ipswich, is a secondary school teacher. More than 80 percent of her part-time wage pays for childcare for her twin girls and two-year-old son, but she enjoys her job and wants to keep a foot on the career ladder.

She said: “We have no choice. I would find it hard to go back into teaching at the same level when my children are in school.”

Another mother, Charmaine McCullum, says her family are only £100 better off each month when she works, than if they survived on benefits alone.

“So really, where is the encouragment in that?” she asked.

The report also highlights how nursery costs for the under twos in the region has risen by five percent in the last year.

Anand Shukla, chief executive at Family and Childcare Trust, believes the current childcare system is ‘not fit for purpose’.

She said: “When even part-time childcare costs outstrip the average mortgage for a family home – and many parents have to spend more than a quarter of their income on childcare – it’s clear that our childcare system isn’t fit for purpose.

“We need a childcare system that helps parents who want to work and contribute to the economy and gives children the best start in life. The Family and Childcare Trust wants to see all political parties commit to a long-term childcare strategy that delivers for parents, providers, and crucially, for children.”

The Trust believes there are some immediate steps that the Government could take in order to address escalating childcare costs. These include extending free early education to all two-year-olds, making better use of school premises and children’s centres to provide flexible childcare provision and uprating Working Tax Credits to account for childcare cost increases since 2005.

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The man arrested by police over a suspected murder in Bury St Edmunds on Thursday has been charged this evening.

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