| Childcare costs have risen by a fifth in just a year and a family with two children could pay as much as £12,000. So how are they coping?
One answer is that more parents are working from home, part-time and often for themselves. It is a trend that has given rise to the term “mumpreneur” – the stay-at-home mother who keeps one eye on the children and another on a fledgling business.
With recent figures putting the annual cost of full-time childcare at £11,700 for two children, it seems unsurprising that families are looking for new ways to counter escalating costs.
In a survey of 700 mothers with children under 10, undertaken by insurer Direct Line, nearly two thirds said they were considering running a business from home in the next three years, believing this would make the family unit better off as a whole.
Almost one in five said they were motivated specifically by the very high costs of childcare, which offset the financial benefits of working in an office or other site away from home.
According to findababysitter.com, a website that allows parents to search for local nannies and babysitters, the average cost of childcare increased by 19pc in the year to December 2013. One of the biggest increases was the cost of hiring a nanny, rising by 25pc in just one year from £6.59 an hour to £8.75 an hour.
Separate research conducted by insurer LV= at the beginning of the year found that children were most expensive between the ages of one and four, costing almost £60,000 in this period, mainly because of nursery fees.
Alison Fredericks from London (pictured with her children above) worked in television for seven years, but left during pregnancy.
When she looked to return to work several years later she found she would not get the flexibility she wanted, to work a 40-hour week during evenings and weekends in order to look after her young children in the day. As a result, this year Mrs Fredericks founded her own business, My Clear Space (myclearspace.co.uk), a bespoke “der09;cluttering” and home-organisation service. This enables her to look after her two-year-old daughter Emilie, while her two sons, Alexander, nine, and Sebastien, five, are both at primary school. This saves on childcare costs and allows Mrs Fredericks to spend more time with her daughter.
She estimates that she works 20 hours a week, often while Emilie is asleep, while her husband, Tom, works full-time as a company director. The couple will have to shell out £3,000 a term when Emilie starts full-time nursery this September.
Mrs Fredericks said she hoped that her expanding business would generate enough income to cover the childcare fees. “Emilie’s nursery costs are expensive, but while she’s there I will have more time to run the business and, in turn, make more money,” she said.
Recent cuts to child benefit for parents earning more than £60,000 – which have affected an estimated 1.1r01;million families – have added to the pressure on middle-income households to cut childcare costs. One source of help is childcare vouchers. Employers have to be signed up to the scheme, which allows parents to “trade” some of their pre-tax income for childcare vouchers that can be spent on nursery care. This works out as a “discount” equating to the earner’s rate of income tax and NI contributions.
'Childcare is a huge expense, but setting up a business is a struggle, too’
Amy Beeson, 32, from west London, is mother to two-year-old Ava. After leaving her job in communications for maternity leave in 2011, she decided to spend her time at home co-writing a book with her mother.
It wasn’t straightforward: before the book, The New Arrival, was picked up by a publishing agency, she had to return to work. Only now has she decided to stay at home working full-time for her business, Wordsby Communications. “Working from home and becoming your own boss is empowering but it can be financially difficult,” she said. “While going to work and paying for childcare is a huge expense, starting up your own business from home means you are likely to struggle financially to begin with as well, so it is important that mothers enjoy the business they are starting up and are able to be adaptable.”
'Only with family help could I afford to go it alone’
Katie Pekacar, also from London, said the cost of childcare was a strong factor in her quitting her job as a senior officer for libraries at the Arts Council last year.
The 38-year-old worked part-time, spending two days at home with her son, Abe (now three), and three days at work. On the days she would be working, she took her son to her mother-in-law’s in the morning, and would pick him up in the evening. This, Mrs Pekacar said, was “invaluable”, as local nurseries cost £70 a day, “about the same as the pay I took home after tax”.
When she was pregnant with her second child, Roni, in summer 2013, her part-time salary was not enough to pay her mortgage, and, knowing she would not get a higher salary should she find a new job, she decided to start her own home business.
In February she set up Independent Mind, a research and consultancy service in the cultural and learning sectors. While she looks after her two young children in the morning, her mother-in-law or cousin will come over in the daytime to look after them for a small fee, giving her the ability to concentrate on her freelance work, which occasionally requires her to spend a day in an office.
Although she has more time to spend with her children, and is saving on childcare costs, Mrs Pekacar said she still needed someone to look after her children while she worked. “I am lucky because I have my family members to help me look after my children, and I’m aware not everyone has that benefit.
“I wouldn’t be able to afford childcare if it weren’t for them.”