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Wednesday, 6 February, 2002, 00:05 GMT
Cost of childcare soars
British parents pay the highest childcare fees in Europe
Millions of children miss out on nursery education because their parents are unable to afford the soaring fees, according to a leading children's charity.

Daycare Trust, which promotes quality, affordable childcare for all, has found that the average cost of a nursery place for a child under two years of age stands at 6,200 - a rise of nearly 10% since last year.

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

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

Daily struggle

Nursery fees in London are the highest, with parents paying an average of 149 per week for a child under two.

Childcare is a crucial part of the local community like schools and hospitals and needs much greater long-term government funding

Stephen Burke
Daycare Trust
The cheapest areas are Yorkshire and Humberside and the North West of England where the weekly charge is an average of 99.

Daycare Trust director Stephen Burke said: "British parents face the highest childcare bills in Europe.

"Our latest survey shows why more and more families simply cannot afford to pay for quality childcare.

"Despite the investment made since the National Childcare Strategy was launched in 1998, parents still face a daily struggle to find - let alone pay for - quality childcare."

Parents in the UK contribute three-quarters of the cost of childcare compared to our European counterparts who contribute only 25 to 30%.

Daycare Trust has appealed to the government to make efforts to redress the balance to enable more families to send their children to nursery.

Mr Burke said: "Childcare is a crucial part of the local community like schools and hospitals and needs much greater long-term government funding."

Although low-income families are eligible to receive a childcare tax credit of up to 37.50 a week, the charity argues this is less than a third of the cost of an average nursery place.

'No surprise'

Rosemary Murphy, chief executive officer of the National Day Nurseries Association, said: "It is true that childcare fees have risen by 10% but this is no surprise.

"The reason for this rise is well-documented and is a direct result of the 10% increase in the minimum wage in October 2001."

Mrs Murphy said the average 6,200 a year for a place for a child at nursery translated into 2.40 per hour for care from 0800 to six in the evening.

She said most of that fee went towards staff salaries and pensions with the remaining 25% paying for equipment, food and overheads.

She too urged the government to take steps to narrow the gap between the real cost of good childcare and the ability of the average-income family to pay.

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The BBC's Graham Satchell
"The average cost for a two-year-old is more than 6,000 per year"
Director, Daycare Trust, Stephen Burke
"In the long term we'd like to see the government invest more in affordable childcare places"
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