Cost of living: Sky-high nursery fees forcing women to ‘quit their jobs and become stay-at-home mums’
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"Ridiculous" nursery fees are forcing women to quit their jobs and become stay-at-home mums - because childcare costs more than their monthly salary. Some mums have revealed they have quit their jobs to stay at home with kids because of childcare costs.
Nursery fees in the UK are already some of the highest in the world - and set to rise even further this year. A survey last month by the Early Years Alliance revealed almost nine in 10 early years providers are likely to increase their fees in 2023.
Mothers are already quitting their jobs to stay at home with children - because childcare costs more than their wages. One woman, Dr Katy Hunter, 34, quit her £30k-per-year job as an arts programme developer to stay at home with her two children.
Katy, from Poole in Dorset, would earn around £2,000 a month after tax - but full-time childcare for her two and four-year-old children saw her shell out a whopping £2,100 each month. This would leave her husband’s income, a similar sum to her own, to cover everything else - including rent, bills and food.
So, in February, Katy begrudgingly accepted she would need to quit her much-loved job - as she was effectively "paying to work". She said: "It’s completely ridiculous what it was costing - my entire income was going on childcare fees.
"That’s already with some free hours for my four-year-old but we just couldn’t make it work. I had ambitions to develop an academic career but it will be so much harder to get back into the industry after time off."
Katy now spends most of her time at home with their little ones - picking up occasional freelance work to supplement their income. Katy said she and husband Gerard Hunter, 40, don’t plan to have any more children - and the costs of childcare were "a factor" in this decision.
"We had two children and two decent £30k salaries - that should be enough to live on," she said. I don’t know how anyone earning less than that is coping, because we just couldn’t."
She feels the government should be stepping in to assist families. Katy,who has a PhD in African film studies, said: "The government doesn’t understand the stress this puts families under.
"We came to the decision for me to quit my job and stop working but it wasn’t an easy decision." She added: "Early years childcare needs to be seen as a priority for government funding.
"There is not enough investment in children, their education and their futures. In other countries, childcare is really an investment in them - here it’s just transactional."
Another mum, Jasmine Allmond, found herself in a similar situation after learning it would cost £1,500 a month to have her four-year-old in nursery for the hours she would have worked. Jasmine, 32, worked full-time in childcare herself - and still found the costs of putting her own daughter in it too high to justify.
Working full-time as a teaching assistant in a school, she was taking home around £900 per month. The mum-of-two and her postman husband Chris, 38, access universal credit but say they still couldn’t make ends meet.
Jasmine, from Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, quit her job in July 2022 and is now a full-time stay-at-home mum. She will remain that way until her daughter starts school - because working was "not worth it".
She feels she was put in a "catch-22" situation - being looked down on for not working, but unable to afford to work. The mum-of-two, whose other daughter is 14, believes it is "pretty impossible" to have young children and both parents working in one household.
She described the situation as "unfair" - and feels she was made to choose between her career and being a mum. Jasmine said: "As much as I love having kids, it does feel like you have to put your life on hold when you do."
Being a stay-at-home mum means Jasmine feels she has "no outlet from home life" and "no reason to leave the house" any more.
She revealed as a result, her mental health has suffered too - and feels the responsibility is down to the government.She said: "Without the government upping funding to support nurseries, there is no way of fixing this situation.
"As parents, we’re just trying to figure out where money is going to come from - and we aren’t alone.
"I get asked ‘why did you have kids if you can’t afford them?’ - but at the time we could. I love being a mum, but I feel like I’m losing out."
10 most expensive regions for nursery care in the UK
Data sourced by the private pension provider Penfold has revealed that the average cost to put your child into a nursery full-time could hit £59.82 per day or £1,195.04 per month by April 2023. If you’re based out of London this could hit a mammoth £86.78 per day or £1,735.65 per month - over 80% of the average UK wage.
The most expensive country is England, with the average cost per day being £61.01 and £1,220.19 per month. The cheapest country to put your child into nursery was Wales, with an average of £46.46 per day and £929.38 per month.
Whilst England has the most expensive average costs overall, the most expensive region across the UK was London with an average cost per day of £80.35 and £1,607.08 per month, followed by Berkshire and Hertfordshire. The ten most expensive place in England are:
- London - average cost per day = £80.35
- Berkshire - average cost per day = £78.45
- Hertfordshire - average cost per day = £77.68
- Buckinghamshire - average cost per day = £75.86
- Surrey - average cost per day = £74.62
- Bristol - average cost per day = £74.10
- Bedfordshire - average cost per day = £72.10
- Cambridgeshire - average cost per day = £71.64
- Essex - average cost per day = £71.24
- Kent - average cost per day = £70.32