School children long for them, but for many working parents the summer holidays and paying for the necessary child-care to cover them is proving an expensive headache.
A new report from the Family and Childcare Trust has revealed that parents paying for full-time childcare over the summer break will shell out an average of £133.34 per week for one child, racking up a total bill of £800 for a six-week period.
Claiming that holiday child care is typically more expensive than during term time, it has also revealed that childcare costs in England have risen by 5% in over the past twelve months.
Looking for cheaper alternatives, the trust highlights that squeezed parents are increasingly turning to informal childcare from friends and family to try to bridge the child-care gap, as most can’t rely on annual leave or flexible working to cover the full 13 weeks of holidays.
“The long summer holiday is a time of stress and expense”
Ellen Broome, chief executive of the Family and Childcare Trust has used the report to urge the government to relieve pressure on parents by addressing childcare provision for children of school age, she says:
“For too many families, the long summer holiday is a time of stress and expense as they try to patch together a solution despite the gaps in availability and financial support.
“Current government policies, including the new ‘right to request’ [flexible working], are not working to help families to deal with school-age childcare.
This price rise is another blow for families already struggling to find and afford childcare over the long school holidays.”
The rising costs of childcare
Reporting on the survey, the BBC highlights that English parents are the worse off in the UK, paying an average £134.66 a week for summertime child care, while those in Scotland and Wales pay around £10 less.
Clocking up the highest weekly childcare bills, the most expensive English region is the East of England, where parents hand over an average £169.38 for full-time holiday care, which is around 35% higher than Inner London, where average weekly prices are £125.01.
What does the government say?
In response to the report, the government claims that it is focused on supporting parents with rising child-care costs and plans to invest around £6bn annually by 2020 to provide children with quality care.
Minister for Children and Families Nadhim Zahawi says:
“This government is doing more than any before to support parents with the cost of childcare.
“We are investing record amounts – around £6bn a year by 2020 – to make sure as many children as possible have access to high-quality care.
“We are also looking at the most effective ways to support parents with wraparound care for older children, which includes £26m to kick-start and improve breakfast clubs in at least 1,700 schools and £2m to fund free enrichment activities and healthy food to disadvantaged children during the summer holidays.”
In the meantime, however, it’s down to most working parents to budget for, and arrange childcare themselves. Speaking to the BBC, Justine Roberts, founder and chief executive of Mumsnet, highlights the negative effect that costly child-care has on family budgets and wider employment issues.
“Childcare is an essential infrastructure to support employment, particularly for mothers, and needs to be recognised as such,“ she notes.