Cost of childcare is forcing parents to give up work or studies

Childcare costs force nearly one in four UK parents to give up their job or drop out of education to look after their offspring, a study reveals. It also found that sky-high bills place a greater burden on British families than childcare costs in a host of other countries. More than 7,000 parents and carers from the UK, the US, Brazil, India, Holland, Nigeria and Turkey with children under seven were questioned for global children’s charity Theirworld.

It found 23 percent of UK-based parents had either quit work or dropped out of studies to avoid childcare costs compared with 17 percent of their counterparts in Brazil, 16 percent in Turkey, and 13 percent in Nigeria.

Some 74 percent of parents in the UK said they find it difficult to meet childcare costs compared with 52 percent in India, 57 percent in Holland, 59 percent in Nigeria, 68 percent in the US and Brazil, and 72 percent in Turkey.

Theirworld chairwoman Sarah Brown, wife of former PM Gordon Brown, is calling on governments to prioritise spending on the early years.

She said the survey “laid bare the scale of the global early years crisis and its impact on children in rich and poor countries alike”.

Mrs Brown called for change as “early years childcare is as essential to a country’s infrastructure as roads, hospitals, and telecommunications”.

Sixty-five percent of UK parents said they made big changes, including taking on more work and spending less on food, to afford childcare.

Some 22 percent said childcare takes 30 percent to 70 percent of their income.

Theirworld said nearly 250million children in low and middle-income countries are at risk of not reaching their full potential due to poverty, inadequate nutrition, exposure to stress, and a lack of early stimulation and learning.

This contrasts with children from wealthier backgrounds who tend to be ready to start learning when they reach primary school.

The charity noted that Chancellor Jeremy Hunt made childcare a central part of his Budget, providing an extra £4billion over three years.

He also announced that in all eligible households in England every child under five will receive 30 hours a week of free care from the moment maternity leave ends.

However, critics point out this will not be in place until September 2025.

Last month Prime Minister Rishi Sunak denied childcare is in crisis.

He told the Commons Liaison Committee: “I think announcements in the Budget were warmly welcomed by the childcare sector.”

He said funding would be increased and gaps in the system would be plugged.

He predicted that the changes will also “move us into a quite generous position relative to our peers on childcare.”

A total of 7,226 parents or childcare professionals took part in the survey for Theirworld by Hall & Partners.

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