Mothers in the North East are facing a childcare crisis that is pricing many of them out of work.
Spiralling costs are seeing some parents question the benefit of going to work on a “weekly or even daily basis,” MPs have warned.
Adding to the pain is an increasing trend for women to suffer as cuts lead to unemployment. Across the North East female unemployment has risen by 25% since 2010, standing at 25,973.
Childcare costs have risen faster in the North East than in London in the last 12 months, with parliamentary figures showing the cost of 25 hours nursery for children under two years old has gone up nearly 6%.
That means parents are spending some £101 on 25 hours. The cost of a childminder for the same period is around £92, rising 4% in the last 12 months.
The figures were revealed by Wearside MP Bridget Phillipson, who said that with prices rising faster than wages, “thousands of parents are being forced to stay at home to look after their children when they want the opportunity to work.”
Mrs Phillipson, a Labour MP, said that with many people now working shifts, childcare services must become much more flexible to meet their needs.
She told MPs: “The failure to keep down the cost of childcare has put immense pressure on household budgets and directly contributed to the cost of living crisis facing so many families across our communities. That failure applies equally to pre-school provision and provision for school-age children.
“By 2015, families with children will have lost up to £7bn a year of support. Right now, families with pre-school children face a triple blow of spiralling childcare costs, a reduction in nursery places and a cut in financial assistance. Some of those families are losing up to £1,500 a year due to tax credits changes.”
She was backed by shadow Treasury minister Catherine McKinnell, who warned that in too many places “women are unable to stay in work.”
The mother-of-two added: “I know many women working all the hours they can, whose earnings are taken up in childcare costs to such an extent that they ask every week, or sometimes every day, ‘Is this actually worth it?’
“The cost of juggling caring responsibilities with work is a challenge in itself, even without the challenge of bringing home very little pay.
“Often there is a short-term crisis for a family for the sake of a long-term economic benefit for the individual, the family and the children. It is a key area and the Government should take it seriously.”
Figures revealed by Labour MP Tom Blenkinsop showed while in May 2010, female unemployment in the North East was 20,657, it had now risen to 25,973.
Education minister Elizabeth Truss said the Government was already taking action.
She said: “We have increased total spending on childcare and early-years education: it was almost £5bn but will be over £6bn. We have increased the number of hours of free early-years education for three and four-year-olds from 12.5 hours to 15 hours a week, which is worth £400 per child for parents.
“We have extended support to two-year-olds, and tax-free child care, available from 2015, will be worth up to £1,200 per child.
“That provision is flexible between the ages of nought and five so parents can spend the allowance in the way that they see fit. We are providing support to families in tough times.”