Daycare Trust research shows 6% increase in nursery costs

Daycare Trust’s Childcare Costs Survey 2012 was released today. The research, sponsored by Computershare Voucher Services, shows that:

  • hourly childcare costs for a child under two have increased by 5.8%; and 

  • costs for a child aged two and over have risen by 3.9%.

In the same year period, wages have only increased by 0.3%.

Daycare Trust’s research coincides with new HMRC figures which reveal that 44,000 fewer families are receiving help with childcare costs as a result of the Government’s cut to financial support in April 2011. This saw the childcare element of Working Tax Credit cut from 80% of costs to 70% - as a result, the average claim has fallen by more than £10 per week, costing low-income working families who receive it more than £500 per year.  

The survey, conducted between November 2011 and January 2012, asked all Family Information Services in Britain about the cost and availability of childcare in their area. Other key stats revealed that:

  • the average hourly childcare costs now exceed £100 for 25 hours in many parts of Britain

  • the average yearly cost for a child under two is £5,103.

  • Britain’s most expensive nursery recorded this year charged £300 for 25 hours care – £15,000 for the year.

  • Over half of local authorities said that parents had reported a lack of childcare in the last year.

Anand Shukla, Chief Executive of Daycare Trust said: “These above-inflation increases in the cost of childcare are more bad news for families, heaping further pressure on their stretched budgets as wages remain stagnant and less help is available through tax credits.

“Daycare Trust warned that the Government’s decision to cut tax credits would mean that some families found that they were no longer better off going to work once they had paid for childcare. The latest HMRC figures reinforce Daycare Trust’s fear that the loss of this vital lifeline is forcing families out of work and in to poverty.

“Today we are calling on the Government to reverse its self-defeating childcare tax credit cut, and to deal decisively with the childcare affordability crisis for parents by pledging to provide free childcare for all two year-olds by the end of the current parliament.

Daycare Trust’s survey highlights the ever growing gap between working parents and affordable childcare.

Employers can do their bit to support employees by making flexible working a reality and introducing childcare voucher schemes. Schemes are cost neutral for companies to run and allow a basic rate earner to save nearly £1000 per year on their childcare costs.

Computershare Voucher Services fully supports Daycare Trust’s recommendations for improving accessibility to affordable childcare. We have been particularly heavily involved in the plan to extend childcare vouchers to self-employed and encourage entrepreneurship; a proposal that has already seen some Government support.

There have been several articles covering the report which you can read here:

Childcare cost rises 'may make parents quit their jobs' – BBC News

Childcare costs rise by nearly 6% - The Guardian

Childcare costs survey: nursery fees rise by 6 per cent in a year – Nursery World

My school is becoming an academy – can I still get childcare vouchers?

There has been a lot of chat recently about academies and ‘free schools’ and whether a school’s transition to the status will affect childcare voucher provision. There’s no reason childcare voucher provision should stop, but it will mean a slight change for the school.

Academies and ‘free schools’ are essentially the same, and simply put, they are publicly-funded independent schools. It’s thought that this academic year a further 24 ‘free schools’ were opened and there are now more than 1,000 in England.

‘Free schools’ are not run by the local authority and have the ability to set their own pay and conditions for staff, control the length of terms and school days and have some freedom around the delivery of the curriculum itself. They also have greater control over how they use budgets and innovate to best benefit their students.

They must also take on all responsibility for employee benefits packages from the local authority, including childcare vouchers.

Academies can operate a scheme in the same way as any other school, the only difference is that they will run and administer the schemes themselves. This means that interested academies, which are moving away from their local authority, will need to give us a call to register independently.

If you’re in any doubt about how these changes will affect you then visit our website and get in touch.

A day in the life of...a Honeypot volunteer

The CVS volunteers at Honeypot HouseLast Friday a group of us from CVS went to Honeypot House to participate in a volunteer day. It is a long journey from Lichfield to the New Forest and was an excellent opportunity for us to talk and find out more about each other. We had a superb journey which went quickly due to the lively conversation and much laughter and after stopping for a cheeky McDonalds breakfast we arrived at Honeypot House.

What a fantastic location! We met with some of the Honeypot team; their passion and enthusiasm for what they do is so infectious and it is no surprise that the children who visit Honeypot House have such a fantastic time.

Quick stop at the beach on the way homeIt was a real pleasure to be able to support them, and we soon got to work cleaning, dusting and sorting out the house ready for the arrival of the children. We worked together to make sure we achieved all the tasks on our list and still found time to see the guinea pigs and the horse! Following a recommendation from the Honeypot team, we paid a quick visit to the beach before setting home as well.

We all agreed it had been a fantastic and worthwhile day and one which we all want to repeat soon!

Richard Cooper, Corporate Partnerships Manager at Honeypot said: “Throughout July and August Honeypot host back to back respite breaks for children. This is the busiest period of the year for our children’s services team, therefore assistance from volunteers is crucial to help us maintain the house and grounds at Honeypot House. We were very happy to receive our first wave of volunteers from CVS as Julie-Ann, Lucy, Maxine, Shona and Elizabeth offered to come and help us on a spring cleaning day. After a quick tour of the grounds the volunteers were ready to get stuck in and completed a thorough spring clean of the kitchen, dining room and indoor play areas. Our children’s services manager, Claire Holloway was also really pleased with their fantastic efforts and we are now looking forward to receiving more volunteers in the near future!”

Care for all ages? – guest post by Stephen Burke, United For All Ages

It was Carers Week last week and whilst we are dedicated to supporting parents and those in the childcare sector, Stephen Burke – Director of United for All Ages – says there’s a wider care issue that is slowly coming to the fore.

Something is beginning to stir in British workplaces. Employers are realising that our ageing population means that they have more and more staff with caring responsibilities for an elderly or disabled person. The membership of Employers for Carers is growing rapidly as the public and private sector recognise the challenges facing today’s workforce, let alone the workforce of the future.

The question is how should employers respond. Many have taken up the childcare challenge in the last twenty years to support working parents. Are the same responses and solutions applicable to staff caring for an older person.

The starting point must be finding out more about your staff, their needs and responsibilities. What would help them most and what realistically can employers do?

Quite a lot is the answer. Managers recognising and understanding a carer’s situation is important. But there is more. Employers can offer access to good information and advice so staff aren’t fretting at work, diverted from the job at hand. Knowing what help is available, including aids and adaptations for the home, and how to get it is crucial.

Flexibility is also important. Most employers now offer flexible working. For carers an emergency may require dropping everything quickly to get home or to get to where their parents live 200 miles away. So emergency leave is also important as well as being able to work from home.

Caring can be very stressful and emotionally draining so having someone to talk to is helpful, perhaps through an employee assistance programme or by having a carers’ network in the workplace so staff can share experiences and discuss how they cope.

A new report from Employers for Carers published for Carers Week explores support for ‘caring at a distance’ where the cared for person lives some way from the carer, even abroad. Many employers are starting to put in the place some of these ideas.

Apart from the solutions offered above, the big issues are paying for care and being able to get good care and support services wherever you live in the country. The government has set up the Dilnot commission to look at how care is funded and it is due to report in early July. Let’s hope it offers an ambitious package to support our ageing population.

In the meantime employers may want to consider why tax exempt vouchers are only available to pay for childcare. Surely now is the time for care vouchers to help employees pay for care for all ages?

Stephen Burke is Director of United for All Ages, a social enterprise bringing older and younger people together to create stronger communities and a stronger Britain.

These opinions are those of the writer and not necessarily those of Computershare Voucher Services.

Are you missing out on savings on the cost of school holiday fun?

The school holidays are only weeks away and our latest survey shows that more than half of working parents are unaware they could be using childcare vouchers to make big savings on the cost of holiday clubs, activity camps and other summer entertainment for their kids.

We surveyed 1000 of our parents and 56% didn't know they could use childcare vouchers for things like holiday sports courses and adventure camps such as PGL and Camp Beaumont.

It’s a myth we’ve worked to dispel for several years now but the results of this survey show that the majority of people still believe that vouchers can only be used for nursery and more traditional childcare and as a result they’re missing out on vital savings.

The summer holidays in particular can be an expensive time for parents - paying for additional childcare and keeping the kids entertained can soon mount up. Despite this, only 1% of vouchers used by parents last year were put towards holiday clubs and activities, as opposed to 88% used for the more traditional forms of childcare.

I can’t stress enough that if you’re using registered care, be it breakfast clubs, holiday camps, after schools clubs, or even music lessons and other extracurricular activities, then ask if they accept childcare vouchers and start making those savings. With family budgets being squeezed more than ever at the moment, every penny counts!

If you’re looking for holiday activities for your kids, we’re starting a list of registered carers and the activities they offer on our facebook page.