MP speaks out on childcare costs

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SOUTH-West Norfolk MP Elizabeth Truss has spoken out about the rising cost of childcare.

She spoke on a panel discussion launching the Social Market Foundation’s report “The Parent Trap: Illustrating the growing cost of childcare”.

The Social Market Foundation is a leading UK think tank, developing ideas across a broad range of economic and social policy.

“The Parent Trap”, looked at the changing financial support and the rising cost of formal childcare between 2006, when public financial support peaked, and 2015.

The report found that in 2015 a low-income family is likely to pay 62 per cent more – adjusted for inflation – almost £600 per year, from their own funds compared to 2006. For middle- and high-income families the likely increase between 2006 and 2015 is 25 per cent more, or £900 per year, and 42 per cent more, or £1,400 per year, respectively.

Elizabeth argued that childcare in the UK is becoming more and more unaffordable. It is particularly unaffordable in regions such as the East of England, where parents pay up to a third of their income in childcare costs compared to a quarter of income in London. Rural areas also lose out with parents having to drive a long distance to nurseries.

Elizabeth believes the reason costs have become so high is all the hoops that childminders, the most affordable form of childcare, have to jump through to register.

Under Ofsted, all childminders have to follow a compulsory curriculum of 69 targets and join a childminding network to access vouchers. Since 1997, the number of childminders – which used to make up 50 per cent of the market – has fallen from 100,000 to 55,0000 and prices have increased.

She argues that all childminders should not have to follow the compulsory curriculum and those who look after fewer than four children in their own home should be exempt from regulation, putting them on the same footing as nannies and au pairs. Affordable childcare would enable more parents to work and provide childminding opportunities to others.

Elizabeth said: “Childcare is too over-regulated, which during the past 14 years has led to a steep decline in the number of child minders. This has had a significant impact in my South West Norfolk Constituency where some parents are coping with a 20-mile round trip just to get suitable childcare.

“There needs to be to be a re-think to reduce this red tape and restore the decision making on what is best for the child back to the parents. I will continue to make the case to the Government so that a more affordable and straightforward approach is adopted.”