Childcare costs could make us sell our home, says mum

Stephanie Thomas said she would need £2,000 a month for so-called wraparound childcare
Stephanie Thomas said she would need £2,000 a month for childcare

A mum-of-two has said she may have to sell her home to afford childcare.

Stephanie Thomas said it would cost her and her husband £2,000 a month to have two children in full-time childcare.

Ms Thomas said she would need highly paid work to afford this for daughter Hayden, aged four, and eight-month-old son Avery.

The Welsh government said it was rolling out "high quality" childcare to all two-year-olds across Wales.

Ms Thomas said the cost of childcare meant they were making some tough decisions.

"It means we'll have to consider selling our home to afford childcare," she said.

The 37-year-old said she and her husband had decided not to have more children because of the cost.

"We just couldn't afford three children in full-time childcare," said Ms Thomas, from Sully, in Vale of Glamorgan.

The couple are also considering taking their children out of swimming and dancing clubs.

"Though we'd like them to be in those clubs, we might not be able to afford them," Ms Thomas said.

Ms Thomas, who was made redundant while on maternity leave, said the cost of daily childcare since having Avery had risen by £12.

She is now looking for work that will cover that cost.

A child draws a picture while she is surrounded by toys
She fears the cost could force her to sell her home

"My husband and I are higher than average earners, so we are fortunate in that sense," she said.

"But the cost of childcare is so high, for us to have wraparound care allowing us to work full time hours, and with mortgage rates going up, it just means it's unaffordable."

Ms Thomas said some people she knew had decided not to return to work after having children because of the cost of care.

What help is there with childcare costs in Wales?

The Welsh government has two funded childcare schemes for children aged two, three and four.

The first, called the Childcare Offer for Wales, means those with three or four-year-olds can claim up to 30 hours of free childcare each week, for up to 48 weeks of the year.

The second, called Flying Start, provides 12.5 hours of free childcare to some two-year-olds in deprived parts of Wales.

That is being expanded to cover all two-year-olds.

Tax free childcare is also available to working families across the UK, including the self-employed, earning under £100,000 and at least £152 per week.

'We need to have universal childcare'

Ms Thomas said she had benefitted from tax free childcare.

"It bought our bills down by £200," she said.

"We then had access to 30 hours free when my daughter turned three years of age and that made a big difference. It took our bills down from £800 for childcare to around £300 which was a huge saving.

"But that's not accessible for Avery and I think we need to have universal childcare as soon as statutory maternity cover ends."

In March, it was announced free childcare for working parents in England would be expanded to all children under five by September 2025 to help parents get back to work.

An Oxfam Cymru report has found childcare costs and a lack of Welsh government funded childcare is pushing parents into poverty.

The report, which examined 300 parents' experiences, also found:

  • More than a quarter (27%) said they spent over £900 a month on childcare.

  • About two-thirds (67%) reported having to cut working hours because of a lack of childcare.

  • More than half (53%) said after paying for childcare costs, it made no financial sense for them to go to work.

  • About two-thirds (67%) said that childcare costs put them off having more children.

Oxfam Cymru boss, Sarah Rees, said: "Childcare costs are either trapping parents in poverty or leaving them on the precipice of poverty as they are forced to make impossible choices about their career and future plans to have more children."

She urged ministers to get expert advice on overhauling Wales' childcare system.

Rocio Cifuentes, pictured, said childcare costs were pushing families towards poverty
Rocio Cifuentes said childcare costs were pushing families towards poverty

Children's Commissioner for Wales, Rocio Cifuentes, said early care and education should be available to all children.

The current childcare system, she said, reinforced the gap between children from lower and higher income families.

"This new report shows that high childcare costs are also pushing families towards poverty, and we know about the widespread impact that living in poverty can have on a child's life," said Ms Cifuentes.

"As part of its work in tackling child poverty the Welsh government should review childcare provision to make sure that the significant amount of public money currently invested is reaching those who need the most help."

The Welsh government said addressing child poverty was "an absolute priority" and that it was working to achieve a Wales where all children, young people and families could prosper.

"We are rolling out high-quality childcare to all two-year-olds across Wales through our successful Flying Start programme as part of the Co-operation Agreement with Plaid Cymru," a spokesman said.

"We are also investing £70m in capital investment in this sector so it can continue to grow.

"Our Childcare Offer provides 30 hours of funded childcare a week for up to 48 weeks a year for three and four-year-olds of eligible parents, which includes parents in education or training, compared to 38 weeks of the year in England, for working parents only."