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What does childcare cost you?

My children no longer need childcare, but the difficult decisions I had to make 10 years ago are still the same for parents today. I was lucky and had the opportunity to retrain and learn new skills in a local project where good quality childcare was provided for free.

Although I knew it was a good decision long-term, it wasn’t an easy one, and once I started working again I realised that the childcare costs took a large chunk of my income and that I was working for very little money. This was despite earning a reasonable wage.

As the children grew older and were at school, childcare became a patchwork of private provision and help from family and friends.   Without that close support network or my own transport it would have been impossible to keep working.

The introduction of childcare tax credits did help financially and can make a big difference, especially for those parents on a low income. The recent cut in childcare credits will mean that it makes even less financial sense for many parents to work.

A friend with young children now, struggles with the same issues today.

“Childcare and going back to work was one of the most stressful considerations I have had with both of my children,” she told me. “We can’t afford to have two children in a day care nursery at the same time, despite us both working. My eldest has started school and a whole host of new issues have arisen, such as finding childcare for him during the school holidays. As the summer holidays approach, I ‘m becoming increasingly concerned about it and don’t know what to do. Even when my husband and I combine our annual leave we simply don’t have enough, which means we need to find childcare for him.

“I don’t want to give up work, but I’m considering it to be a realistic option. Ironically, the difference in the money we take home at the end of the month will be little different, because I really only earn enough to cover childcare anyway. At the same time I don’t want to leave my job because I enjoy working. I don’t want to risk losing my place in employment and struggling to get back, particularly given the state of things at the moment.”

Access to affordable childcare should be key priority

These are decisions facing parents across the UK who are balancing up their own long-term desire to be in work, against the short-term financial drain that paying for childcare creates.

I was given the chance to learn new skills  in a training scheme which allowed me to work so I could support my family and give my children a better future. That opportunity isn’t available to everyone, but it should. Access to affordable childcare and help with costs to access training should be a key priority for the government.

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