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Monday, 11 February, 2002, 11:25 GMT
Is the UK failing parents?
Millions of children in the UK miss out on nursery education because their parents are unable to afford the soaring fees, according to a leading children's charity.

The Daycare Trust charity has found that the average cost of a nursery place for a child under two years of age stands at 6,200 - an increase of nearly 10 percent on last year's figures.

Demand for nursery places has far exceeded supply and there is currently only one place for every seven children under the age of eight.

The charity, which conducted the survey across England, wants the government to invest more money in making affordable childcare available to all families.

Should the government do more to help parents find affordable childcare? Tell us your childcare experiences.

This Talking Point has now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.

There is very little help available and places are at a premium

Sara, UK
I've always paid for my kid's private childcare. We're just an ordinary family trying to improve our lives. We've never been eligible for any benefits and accept that this is just the way it is. However I find it really annoying that so much emphasis is put on pre-school places. What about when the children are at school - we don't all finish work at 3pm you know. Something should be done to give working parents (and not just the mothers) flexible working hours as well as more after school clubs. There is very little help available and places are at a premium. I'm not asking anyone to pay for this but just let's get more clubs going. And before anyone else starts about unfair for the non-parents, most working parents have to justify themselves and usually work harder to make sure that they keep up.
Sara, UK

I am married and work full time, my husband is back at university training to be a much-needed nurse. We already have one child who we pay min 400 a month and have another on the way. I have made the decision to stay at home and look after my children but am told by the government that we have to survive on my husbands 5,000 bursary. So we either take the decision to put two children in childcare at a cost of 800 a month or survive on 5,000 a year. Both of these options do not include "handouts".

The subject of children always makes people emotional. Parents really don't like to be told that they are being subsidised by taxpayers without children. But that's the reality and the net imbalance is truly staggering. The problem is that we live in a society where human rights are everything and financial responsibilities someone else's problem.
A father to be, London

Childcare vouchers should be made tax-free

Martin, UK
The childcare cost for our daughter is 10,700 per annum. Do we object to the cost? No. What we do object to is being taxed on the childcare vouchers provided by our employer. If our employers had set up the childcare facilities this would be a tax-free benefit in kind. But because our employer merely provides vouchers this is a taxable benefit in kind. Therefore I ask that childcare vouchers be made tax-free. As for the people who advocate one parent staying at home I would like to point out my family's circumstances. My wife earns 55,000 per year I earn 40,000 per year. Which one of us should give up work? Bearing in mind two things. Firstly, my wife is better at looking after our child than I am and secondly, that if either of us gave up work the other would not be able to afford to pay the outgoings on our home.
Martin, UK

Am I missing something here or was I wrong in thinking that a sign of an advanced civilised society is one where health and education are given to all children for the betterment of everyone in the long term. As for those whingers who do not seem to like children and mock the rest of us who do, just think, if we all felt like you mankind would be extinct within one generation. Sobering thought, isn't it ?
Colin Mackay, UK

People that see education as unnecessary should move to a country where this form of investment is not a priority

Richard, UK
Education is essential for the welfare of the individual and the people - it should not depend on the wealth a child's parents. Education funding should be subsidised and means-tested. To see its benefits, people that see education as unnecessary should move to a country where this form of investment is not a priority.
Richard, UK

Can't afford the childcare when you go out to work? Then don't have kids!
MP Marshall, UK

I now expect a deluge of comments from whingeing parents who expect everyone else to foot the bill because they can't be bothered to bring up their own kids. There are millions of us who are not the slightest bit interested in having children. If the government subsidise this sort of thing, it has to be at the expense of something else. Money does not grow on trees. I do not want my taxes used to subsidise selfish parents' childcare costs. I want it to go to healthcare so that we all benefit. If you can't afford a nursery place, I'm afraid that's too bad.
Andrew F, UK

Andrew F, have you thought about who is going to operate the healthcare services from which "we all benefit"? You may not be interested in having your own children, but when you are old and in need of care, the doctors and nurses who take care of you will be the children of those whinging parents whom you are now so ready to attack. It's you that can't be bothered, not them!
Liz, UK

Andrew F, UK: We can similarly expect to be deluged by howls of protests from people that don't have children and don't want to waste their taxes. I have private healthcare but still some of my taxes pay for the NHS. I also have a child and pay for childcare. So are we now saying that only people like myself who are fortunate enough to be able to afford childcare can have kids? What next - means testing before you are allowed to conceive? As regards selfish parents, does this include single parents that have to work? Have you people never heard of a society?

Just because people have children, it doesn't mean that they will all claim the benefits they are entitled to

Bruce Moss, UK
Andrew F and those who follow: Just remember who will be paying for your pensions and NHS healthcare! Also, just because people have children, it doesn't mean that they will all claim the benefits they are entitled to. My wife and I are definitely entitled to additional support but we don't claim it. I am sick and tired of hearing people like you who constantly complain about people who have children getting a better deal. I work hard and I pay private healthcare. I have supportive parents who assist with childcare and I know people who have it much harder than me. I wish we could all borrow that crystal ball you must use so we can all make sure that our circumstances stay fruitful but I'm afraid that's not how the world works.
Bruce Moss, UK

It amazes me that if anything like this happens, the voice of the childless are outraged that they might be missing out on something that parents are getting. Children are the future of our society, and those that decide to have them should be encouraged and supported. Perhaps Andrew F you should also remember that you are actually someone's child, and it will be other people's children that will look after you if you are sick.
Emma, England

Well said Andrew F! I'm a parent and I was perfectly happy to pay the going rate for nursery places for my kids. What next - subsidised people carriers so that we can all drive the family wherever we want? Having kids is expensive. If you can't afford it, or if you don't want to put the effort in, don't procreate!
John, England

Andrew F has the right idea. Women want the kids but don't want the responsibilities. As soon as the rug rats are of an age to need a nappy change, they pass them off to someone else, expecting the government to pay all the extra costs. Two things here, get married, stay at home and look after them yourself. And secondly the quicker that this government stops all benefits to be accrued by being a single parent with up to 11 possible different claims for benefits per week on my tax bill, the better.
Bob Deeney, England

It would help me enormously if full time nursery places were free

Megan Ravetz, UK
As a full time working mum with two kids it would help me enormously if full time nursery places were free. This could be financed by making child benefit means tested.
Megan Ravetz, UK

Children are vital for an economy and society to survive in the long term. If issues such as over-priced childcare or family housing discourage people from having kids, then the economy and society suffers. Japan with its low birth rate is a perfect example. So, yes, the government needs to give more support and provide affordable childcare.
NE, London, UK

We already put children through formal education at too young an age. Evidence suggests that children that go to playschool do just as well as children that go to nursery school. Let the little ones just be!
Caroline, UK

Perhaps more children in childcare at an earlier age would allow teachers to start discipline at an early age - something that many parents seem to ignore. I'm a primary school teacher and I find the best behaved children are the ones that have been to some kind of pre-school. However, all discipline needs to be carried through to the home life, which is where the problems really start.
Gerald Possiter, UK

Interesting one really - I was chairman of my local pre-school and tried to implement a cost effective joint day-care/pre-school arrangement and was pushed back by parents and staff alike. My feelings on the matter are that people ask for something but when effort has to be put in or money spent, then all the people moaning about childcare suddenly melt into the background. One of the big arguments about this was that local authorities abuse charity day care centres by dumping anti-social and problem children on them, thus causing significant problems for the rest of the group.
Ethan, UK

I have to wonder at the wisdom of some couples where both parents work. Although a lot of people say it's a financial necessity I wonder how many would actually be better off if they no longer had to pay for childcare, two people travelling to work, two business wardrobes etc. I don't see why those people who either have no children or who make the decision for one parent to not go out to work should have to subsidise those that want it all. If you want it all, pay for it all.
John B, UK

See also:

06 Feb 02 | Education
Cost of childcare soars
25 Jul 01 | Education
Childcare swings and roundabouts
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