Holiday childcare: 'I'm lucky - my sister has my child'

By Katherine Sellgren
BBC News family and education reporter

Image source, Getty Images

"There's no way I can work, on my wages, and pay the childminder for the holidays," says mother-of-one Emma.

"I've been very lucky because my sister has my daughter for me."

For Emma, being able to leave her child with her sister and pay her a much reduced rate has been a godsend for childcare in the school holidays.

But for many British parents, the impending holidays can mean an average bill of £133.34 a week for full-time holiday childcare for one child.

This figure has been produced by the Family and Childcare Trust which surveyed local councils across England, Scotland and Wales about the cost of holiday childcare provision.

What did the trust's survey find?

The trust's survey finds that in England, parents pay £134.66 a week, while in Scotland and Wales it's around £10 cheaper at £124.44 and £124.85 respectively.

The most expensive English region is the East of England, where parents can expect to hand over £169.38 a week for full-time holiday care.

This is around 35% higher than some other areas, including Inner London, where average weekly prices are £125.01 and the West Midlands at £125.90.

It also finds that childcare costs have risen by 4% in the past year.

The trust's report says most working parents do not have enough annual leave to cover the 13 weeks of school holidays.

"For parents and carers, finding childcare during the holidays can be particularly challenging," it says.

"The price is normally significantly higher than term-time childcare, which can throw off carefully managed budgets.

"There are also substantial gaps in availability, meaning many parents will find it difficult to find childcare that covers their working patterns and suits their children's needs.

"Where holiday childcare is unavailable or too expensive, parents are left with few options. Many cannot call on family and friends to provide all the informal childcare they need, and will not have enough annual leave to cover the long break, and some struggle to stay in work."

Emma is well aware of how lucky she has been to be able to access informal childcare through her sister.

"If I was to pay someone else to have my child, it just wouldn't be possible.

"We've got a good network within our family, but if you don't, you're lumbered and it makes it even harder.

"Unfortunately some parents have got no choice but to fork out. And a lot of parents end up using all their annual leave through the six-week holiday."

Ellen Broome, chief executive of the Family and Childcare Trust, says it's time to "urgently address childcare policy for school-age children".

"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."

Justine Roberts, founder and chief executive of Mumsnet, says childcare costs are a "huge drag" on families' budgets.

"Childcare is an essential infrastructure to support employment, particularly for mothers, and needs to be recognised as such."

What does the government say?

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."

Related Internet Links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites.