Holiday childcare costs have risen by five per cent since last summer, meaning the average spend per week is more than double what families spend on food and drink.
The Family and Childcare Trust’s (FCT) 16th annual Holiday Childcare Survey finds that the summer holiday comes with an average price tag of £748 per child for six weeks.
Labour has criticised the Government, saying that since the Conservatives came to power in 2010, the cost of holiday childcare has risen by more than 50 per cent, with the North East being the hardest-hit region, having experienced a 111 per cent increase.
An analysis by Channel 4’s FactCheck team pointed out that the 2010 FCT report used the average cost of childcare provided by local authorities, whereas the 2017 figure is a weighted average that takes into account the cost of private-sector childcare as well, meaning that the two are not directly comparable.
Nonetheless, this year’s FCT report makes clear that prices vary across the country – in the North East, costs have risen by nine per cent since last year to £133 for one week of holiday childcare, whereas in the east of England, it costs £113 on average.
In fact, the North-East figure is higher than in every region of England, apart from Outer London, as well as noticeably above the average for Scotland and Wales. Prices in the region are 10 per cent higher than in the North West.
Ian Lavery, chairman of the Labour Party and MP for Wansbeck, described the figures as ‘a true reflection of the neglect the North East has always faced under the Conservatives’.
He added: “These figures are a national news story and rightly so, because no increase in these costs should be seen as acceptable anywhere.
“However, we must also look at the North East, which has for decades been a black-spot when it comes to people receiving support from the Government and has been one of the biggest victims of the Tories’ asset-stripping and attacks on working-class communities.”
However, the Conservative MP for the Berwick constituency, Anne-Marie Trevelyan, highlighted steps taken by the Government to support parents with children.
“This Conservative Government is acting so that throughout the summer and beyond, working parents now benefit from 15 hours of free childcare,” she said.
“That comes on top of the huge cuts to income tax worth more than £1,000 per person and an increase in the National Living Wage worth £1,400 to a full-time worker.
“Ensuring parents can continue to work and afford childcare costs is a priority for the Government, which is why we are doubling the amount of free childcare to 30 hours per week – worth around £5,000 per child – from September.
“This will make a particular impact for parents in rural Northumberland who often have to travel further to work meaning reliable childcare is even more important.
“I am extremely proud it is the Conservatives bringing in this huge benefit for working families.”
Nevertheless, it is clear that the particular issue of childcare during the six-week summer holidays is an issue for parents in north Northumberland.
Eve Morgan, from Alnwick, said: “We’re soon to have two under two and I’m already planning on cutting my work hours down to compensate how much we would be spending monthly.
“I think there should be some kind of extra relief for low/middle-income parents over the school holidays as, unless you’re budgeting yearly to pay for the summer care, you’re going to be very hard hit over the summer.”
Rising costs are only half the picture though, as just one in four local authorities in England reported to the FCT having enough holiday childcare for all parents working full-time, dropping to one in eight for children with disabilities.
Fewer local authorities in England report having enough holiday childcare available compared to last summer – 29 per cent reported having enough for four to seven-year-olds, compared to 33 per cent in 2016.
The Government introduced a new right to request holiday childcare for parents from their children’s school in September last year. But this policy is yet to achieve its potential, according to the FCT; just four per cent of local authorities said that this has had a positive effect on whether there is enough holiday care.
Another Alnwick parent, a mum-of-two, said: “We have had to use a mixture of grandparents and holiday clubs to try to keep costs down. I work part-time and have one school-age child and another at a private day nursery.
“We are lucky that the nursery is open all year round and now has a holiday club. But I only know of two in Alnwick, which isn’t a lot considering we have three primary schools.”
Ellen Broomé, chief executive at the FCT, said: “Once again rising holiday childcare costs and increasing shortages will leave parents struggling to keep their heads above water. Many working parents who cannot call on family and friends to provide informal childcare may struggle to make work pay or remain in work at all this summer.
“The Holiday Childcare Survey 2017 reveals the right to request has had little impact on the availability of childcare places for parents who need holiday childcare.
“Families need a Government strategy to make sure that every parent is better off working after they have paid for childcare and that there is enough childcare for working parents throughout the year.”