Union calls for universal free childcare as nursery bills ‘skyrocket’ in North West

New data from the TUC shows childcare fees have increased by £2,800 a year for parents in the North West with kids aged under two over the last decade.

The Trades Union Congress (TUC) has called for universal free childcare, after new analysis revealed that nursery fees have “skyrocketed” across England over the last decade.

The data shows that the cost of childcare, for parents with children under two, has increased by £2,941 a year in England.

In 2012, the average full-time nursery bill for a family with a child under two was £11,300 per annum. But in 2021, it was a whopping £14,200 - an increase of 26%.

Fees rising in the North West

The TUC analysis shows that parents in the North West have faced a higher increase of 29%.

Fees have increased by £2,800 a year for parents in the region with children aged under two, increasing from £9,591 in 2012, to £12,391 in 2021.

Previously no nurseries in the North West were charging over £1,000 a month.

Highest childcare fees in the developed world

The UK now has the second highest childcare costs among leading economies.

An estimated 1.7 million women are prevented from taking on more hours of paid work due to childcare issues, resulting in a loss of up to £28.2 bn in economic output each year.

A TUC poll of working parents with pre-school children – published in March – revealed that one in three (32%) spend more than a third of their wages on childcare. Around one in seven (15%) say that the costs take up more than half of their pay.

New Prime Minister, Liz Truss has pledged to follow through on government plans to change staff-to-child ratios for young children.

But, the TUC warns that plans to reduce staffing ratios would not drive down the costs of childcare – but would instead damage quality and could force more workers out of the sector due to unmanageable workloads.

The union body argues that the childcare industry needs urgent investment from government.

What have the TUC said?

TUC Regional Secretary Jay McKenna said: “High-quality childcare should be affordable for all parents. It’s how we keep women in work and close the gender pay gap.

“But in this cost-of-living emergency, working families in the North West are spending more and more of their pay packets on childcare bills, while their wages stagnate.

“This is putting huge stress on family budgets at the same time as other living costs are shooting up.

“Cutting staffing ratios isn’t the answer. It would simply put more pressure on our already overstretched, underpaid and undervalued childcare workers.

“We desperately need free, quality childcare for all parents – and a long overdue pay rise for childcare workers.”