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Surge in parents borrowing money to fund childcare

Surge in parents borrowing money to fund childcare
Emma Lunn
Written By:
Emma Lunn

The number of parents falling into debt to cover childcare costs is up by a third in just 12 months, according to Pregnant Then Screwed.

Research by the campaign group found that 45.9% of parents have been plunged into debt or withdrawn their savings to pay for childcare – a 30% increase from 2023. Meanwhile, half of single parents have had to borrow money to pay for childcare.

The study, in partnership with Women In Data, found a third (33.6%) of mothers are unable to return to work full-time due to childcare costs or availability, compared to 11.9% of fathers.

Pregnant Then Screwed surveyed 35,800 parents. Women In Data then extracted a nationally representative sample of 5,870 parents to create a 2024 State of the Nation childcare report. Much of the data could be compared directly to the same survey conducted in 2023.

The report found that one in five (21.5%) parents with a child under five years old had to withdraw money from their savings and pension to pay their childcare bill. More than a third (37.1%) said they had to use credit cards, take out a loan or borrow money from family or friends.

The figures rise sharply for single parents, with almost two-thirds (66.5%) of those with a child under five accruing debt to pay for childcare, including 50% who borrowed money and 31.3% who have withdrawn money from their savings or pension pot.

In 2023, the same survey found that 35.2% of parents had to rely on some form of debt, or withdraw money from their savings to pay for childcare.

Currently, women retire with a third less in private pension savings than men due to inequalities in the workplace and the knock-on effect of caring responsibilities.

Half (53%) of parents with a child under five years of age in England say they spend more than a quarter of their household income on childcare, which is up 16% from last year, whilst one in five parents (19.2%) said they spend more than half their household income on childcare.

‘Cost-of-working crisis’

But cost isn’t the only issue. A third (34%) of parents said their childcare provider has a waiting list longer than nine months and only 13% of parents said there is no issue with childcare availability near them.

The issue of cost and availability continues to have a negative impact on the economy and on gender equality, with 20% of mothers in England saying they are unable to take up a more senior role due to childcare costs and availability, compared to 8.8% of fathers.

Joeli Brearley, founder of Pregnant Then Screwed, said: “We’ve not only got a cost-of-living crisis, we’ve got a cost-of-working crisis that disproportionately impacts mothers.

“We’re running out of babies. The birth rate is in decline. But parents who want to have more children cannot afford to do so. Being a parent is tough enough, but when having more children means sacrificing your income, procreation feels like financial suicide. If we aren’t careful, becoming a parent will be a luxury item, and the economy can’t afford to pay that price.”

Earlier this year, Pregnant Then Screwed reported issues with the Government’s free childcare scheme.