Paying for childcare has forced nearly a quarter of UK parents into debt, according to a study by the Daycare Trust and Save the Children.
Parents are spending around a third of their salaries on childcare costs - the highest amount in the world. The Daycare Trusts says it costs on average £5,000 a year to pay for nursery care of 25 hours a week in England. In Wales, this falls to £4,700 and in Scotland parents are forking out £5,178.
More than half of the 4,359 parents questioned by the two charities said they had cut spending on everyday essentials such as food, clothing and other bills to meet rising childcare costs. And four out of 10 families now consider childcare costs as onerous as mortgage repayments.
Two-thirds of parents can't afford another child
Two-thirds of parents said they cannot afford to give up employment but are finding it hard to pay for childcare. A quarter of the low-income parents questioned, on a salary of £12,000 or less, said they had been forced to give up work to care for children themselves.
Families in severe poverty are twice as likely as wealthier families to give up work and care for their children and more than half of them said they were no better off than when they had worked and paid for childcare.
Cuts to the working tax credit have upped the pressure on families, cutting £500 a year on average from the budgets of low-income families.
Sally Copley, spokesperson for Save the Children, says the government is undermining its own 'make work pay' policy by not funding the costs of childcare for the poorest families: "Childcare in the UK is amongst the most expensive in the world and families on low incomes simply don't earn enough to cover the costs and are being priced out of work as a result.
The recent cut to the working tax credit has only made this worse with many parents realising they are no better off working and they and their children remain trapped in poverty," she adds.
Anand Shukla, chief executive of Daycare Trust, adds: "If you want welfare reform to ensure that work does pay for low income families, then you need high-quality childcare provision that is affordable for parents."
Are you struggling to pay for the cost of childcare? Would it be more financially viable for you not to work to meet these costs? Let us know by leaving a comment below.