UK families face highest costs for childcare: Average weekly nursery bill is £160


Working mothers have to fork out more for childcare in Britain than in any other country in the developed world.

A third of UK family income goes towards nurseries and childminders – almost four times the cost in Germany and three times that of France.

Charities say the exorbitant costs – which can reach £20,000 per child – are down to the fact that the Government targets state help for childcare towards those on lower incomes, pushing up costs for others.

It means the middle classes are bearing the brunt of spiralling costs, leaving them with bills of more than £160 a week on average for nursery places.

Critics, however, warn that the true cost of the trend towards having both parents out at work is not the financial one, but the emotional and developmental cost for children who grow up without their mother at home.

A study from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, a group of 32 industrialised nations, found that 33 per cent of a British family’s net income goes towards the cost of childcare.

This is higher than every other country in Europe and the rest of the Western world. German parents pay just 8 per cent of their net income towards childcare, while in France the figure is 11 per cent. Costs tend to be higher in English-speaking countries: 19 per cent in the U.S, 22 per cent in Canada, 28 per cent in New Zealand and 29 per cent in Ireland.

But none exceed the amount paid by British parents. The OECD average is just 13 per cent of income, the report says.

The most recent figures show that in the UK, the cost of a full-time under-two’s nursery place is £167 a week – rising to as high as £375 a week in areas like central London. This works out as more than £18,000 a year.

For children under the age of two,  their costs are even higher because they require more hands-on care. Nursery costs increased by 5.1 per cent in the last year alone – twice the rate of inflation.

Childminders cost an average of £152 a week for a two-year-old. But in London, costs can be as high as £400 a week – some £20,000 a year.

The costs are based on care for 50 hours a week. Charges are higher if the parents are working non-standard hours.

Childminder costs
Childminders cost an average of £152 a week in the UK

The reason that British charges are so much higher is that, unlike in Europe, there is little government support for childcare. What help there is is targeted at those on lower incomes.

For the better off, the only help is 12 and a half hours of free nursery or playschool places for 38 weeks of the year.

European countries tend to provide much more funding for childcare to allow mothers to continue in work. In Sweden, for example, pre-school places are available from the age of one, and no one pays more than 3 per cent of their monthly income per child.

The OECD report, Gender Brief, compared childcare costs before tax breaks and state help; and then childcare costs after this help. In the UK costs are 43 per cent of family income before government help, and 33 per cent afterwards.

Willem Adema, one of the report’s authors, said: ‘The British system is geared towards lower income groups, with various tax credits focused at them.

‘For these parents, childcare isn’t that much more expensive than in other countries. But the moment your earnings hit a certain level it becomes much more expensive.’

Kate Groucutt of the Daycare Trust charity, which campaigns for affordable childcare, said the figures were ‘of huge concern’.

She said: ‘The crippling cost of childcare in the UK means that many parents are finding they are financially better working only part-time or not at all, and children are missing out on the proven benefits of good quality early years education.’

But Norman Wells, of the Family Education Trust, said: ‘It is a misnomer to call policies family-friendly when they are aimed at keeping parents apart from their young children for large portions of the day.’

Why do you think the UK tops the chart as the most expensive for childcare? What needs to be done by the Government to stop both childcare providers and parents facing a high expense from the cost of childcare? Join the discussion by leaving your comments below!

Source: Daily Mail


4 thoughts on “UK families face highest costs for childcare: Average weekly nursery bill is £160

  • Pingback:Early Years: The cost of extending free childcare | Nursery Management software, Childcare NVQ training, Nursery websites, Nursery fee collection, Childcare news

  • August 29, 2010 at 11:49 am

    I agree with both of the previous correspondents. There is abuse of tax credits which would stop if the funding was paid to the registered provider. The figures that are being offered around the Country for the “free” 15 hours is, in many cases, less the cost of the provision. The idea of a “level playing field” betweeen the maintained and all other sectors appears to have gone right out of the window as local authorities start to realise the true cost of their own provision.
    No government has had the courage to admit that, in the face of overwhelming evidence from other european countries, what we offer to our children at age four is basically wrong. A curriculum from birth to five? We are a laughing stock in countries with much higher levels of attainment

  • August 27, 2010 at 12:43 am

    my weekly charge is £144.50 no where near the average childcare cost. the government would have more money to give to all if they stopped people abusing the system as it is.
    If a client joins our nursery for e.g. full time they are required to pay 144.50 they take my registration number and call tax credits who then give them childcare support based on thier income. That client then comes back to the nursery and reduces thier week with us to one day or finishes the child altogether.
    who informs tax credits they have done this? who checks up that they are attending my nursery? who checks anything?
    the answer
    know one
    when i first opened 6 years ago i would randomly have a hmrc call to check on a client i can honestly say that this has not happened in over 4 years , system open to abuse, I go out of pocket as a tax payer in the work place and in my family life, stung twice

  • August 26, 2010 at 4:39 pm

    I always have trouble understanding where these supposed ‘average’ cost come from because at £160 for a 50 hour week make an average hourly charge of £3.20. I have a private nursery in York, not one of the poorest parts England but not one of the richer ones either, I know of no Day Nursery offering childcare for as little as £3.20 an hour!

    I looked at the Daycare Trust cost analyst for 2009, in their figures for two year olds and over, the average cost for England came out at only £3.12 and for my own region, Yorks & Humber at £2.78. The Daycare Trust get their cost information from the regional Family Information Service and they get their information from YOU the providers in their annual audit. All the figures are publicly available on either from the FIS or on the web at

    We all are happy to tell the FIS what are charges are as we know parents are accessing the information and therefore we have a tendency to quote our most competitive price which like Easyjet and Ryanair is not necessarily the ACTUAL cost.

    For these types of surveys to be accurate it requires accurate information as the current practice of using figures from the FIS is not realist. It’s a bit like saying the average price of an airline ticket is worked out by driving around and looking at the price advertise on billboards and double-decker bus and I’m sure there would be plenty of complaints if that was normal practice.

    Survey like these also do not help our cause in York and other LA areas where the Free Entitlement Funding is well below the actual cost of providing a quality service as LA can use these average figures as justification for paying such low levels of funding.


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