Suffolk: Rising cost of childcare pricing mums out of work
THE rising cost of childcare in Suffolk and north Essex is pricing hundreds of mothers out of work, a major study has revealed.
For many mothers it is simply not worth going to work once nursery or childminding fees have been paid.
In some cases – where a second earner takes a full time-job at the minimum wage – a couple who use childcare could be left just �4 a week better off with two incomes than with one.
According to the report by the Resolution Foundation a two-child family earning �44,440 can end up with the same take-home earnings as a family who earn �20,000 a year less after childcare is taken into account. The financial advantage is almost wiped out by childcare costs and lost tax credits.
While both families will pay �13,529 a year for full-time care for two children, the lower-income family gets more than �11,000 in state support towards the bill.
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Suffolk MPs have welcomed the formation of a policy commission on children to address the issue of women being locked from the workplace.
David Ruffley, Tory MP for Bury St Edmunds, said the commission led by Elizabeth Truss, minister for education and childcare, will look to address the ratio of staff to children in nurseries.
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He said: “I find the cost of childcare quite extraordinary.
“The Government needs to tackle this issue head-on. We are in a position where working mums are finding it increasingly difficult to make ends meet.
“I frequently have mothers coming to me who want to return to work, and we’re not just talking about full-time work but those looking for part-time work, but after covering childcare, transport costs and the tax on part-time wages they are left with very little.
“The commission, which has only been set up for a few weeks, has found that the requirements imposed by the nurseries are very high. There is a rigorous ratio of staff to children, depending on the child’s age, that ultimately increases the price of childcare. If we can address this, the cost passed on to families may decrease.”
Ben Gummer, MP for Ipswich, added: “I will be supporting any recommendations that Elizabeth Truss makes on lowering the cost of childcare to make it more accessible for mums to work.
“We need to make it more affordable, and more realistic. There are mothers out there with the skills and ability who want to work but just can’t. That doesn’t make any sense.”
Addressing the issue is seen by the Government as a way of increasing social mobility and living standards, tackling poverty, boosting the economy and reducing the benefits bill.
Elizabeth Trusssaid: “Childcare costs are far too high for parents and the system needs reform. For too many families, high costs of childcare mean it is not worth going back to work.
“That is why we set up a commission to look at the affordability of childcare earlier this year.
“We have been looking at best practice in France, Germany, Denmark and the Netherlands where high-quality affordable childcare is available for parents and will be setting out proposals in due course.”
The report by the Resolution Foundation also says growth in female employment has been critical in maintaining household living standards over the last 30 years as men’s employment income has declined in real terms. Affordable childcare is therefore essential in lifting incomes for those at the lower end of the income scale.
Vidhya Alakeson, deputy chief executive of the Resolution Foundation and joint author of the report, said: “Despite progress over the last decade, the cost of childcare in the UK still eats up a very large slice of family incomes. It’s hardly worth a typical second earner going out to work more than a couple of days a week, because the family will be barely better off.
“This is a serious concern because increasing the level of female employment is one of the key routes through which family living standards have increased.
“We need major change in our childcare system to ensure that work is always worthwhile – and that working more hours or a pay rise results in higher take-home pay.”
MUM-of-three Heidi Boast, is struggling to find a job which will cover her childcare and transport costs.
Mrs Boast, 36, of Main Road, Martlesham, has been forced to look for a job after her husband discovered he was being made redundant in December.
She said: “I have been out of work since my eldest was born, so about nine years.
“I was in the fortunate position of not really having to work, we can rely on my husband’s wages, and we decided that I would stay at home while the children were young.
“However my husband Nigel is being made redundant in December which is not great, so I am now looking for a job.”
But with childcare and transport costs to deduct from her wages, she is struggling to find a job to even cover these.
“It’s madness. I looked at one job and I think by the time I had sorted out all the arrangements I would actually be �20 out of pocket. It wouldn’t make any sense,” she added.
Heidi’s two eldest children, Molly, eight, and Charlie, five, are both at primary school, but she would have to arrange before and after school clubs or a childminder. Her third child, two-year-old Harry, would need a nursery place.
In another example, one Ipswich mum is left with just 20% of her wages after paying for childcare.
The mum-of-two, who asked not to be named, decided to return to work after her boys were born to keep her feet on the career ladder.
However, childcare costs account for 80% of her wages.
The mum, who works as a legal secretary in Ipswich said: “I work Mondays and Tuesdays and have to pay childcare for both my boys.
“Some months it can be as much as �400, which is about 80% of what I earn. So we mainly rely on my husband’s wages.
“The only reason I returned to work was so that once the boys are at school I still have a good job and will one day earn some money.”