PARENTS in the Capital are shelling out £5500 more than those elsewhere in Britain to send their children to nursery, new figures show.
The crippling expense – which is forcing some parents out of work – is revealed in a breakdown of costs for nurseries, after-school clubs and childminders in Edinburgh.
Mums and dads who want to send children to nursery for 25 hours a week for four years before starting school now face a total average bill of nearly £22,000, while the equivalent UK figure is just under £16,400.
And families using childminders while children are at primary school face further costs running to thousands of pounds.
Education chiefs said pressures on young families were being driven by increased demand from parents who commute daily into the city and opt to send children to nurseries close to where they work.
Amid a relentless rise in the general cost of living, critics said countless Edinburgh families were now struggling to balance the books, with many opting to stay at home rather than shouldering the expense of childcare while they are in employment.
Father-of-one Thomas Lynch, 40, who co-founded the Dads Rock childcare group, said: “I spoke to one father this weekend who has one child and was looking at different childcare options.
“But he and his partner have just decided that the mum is not going to go back to work – when they worked out what they would earntogether compared to the cost of childcare it wasn’t going to be worth it.”
With some families reporting that the cost of care for two or more children left them struggling to afford much beyond food and other basic necessities, city chiefs have embarked on an Edinburgh-wide strategy which will look at radical measures, including extra support for parents of children aged two and under and those from low-income households.
Parent representatives, who said soaring fees were also being driven by high property and nursery staff costs, urged council leaders to adopt arobust approach.
Tina Woolnough, Edinburgh representative for the National Parent Forum, said: “It’s really tough for parents and families – I think they would welcome any and all efforts to bring down the cost in the city, while ensuring it remains high quality.
“There used to be a lot more council-run, full-time places. What I would really like to see is the council investing more in high-quality, all-day provision of its own.”
Education chiefs said new national initiatives – such as the Scottish Government’s plan to increase annual free childcare for three and four-year-olds from 475 to 600 hours – would help improve the situation.
Councillor Paul Godzik, education leader, said: “The children and families department is also working closely with Lothian Association of Youth Clubs to provide a range of support and advice to the out of school care sector, and encourage co-operative working across the sector.
“We want to develop a co-operative charter and encourage mutual support, to help ensure that parent-led provision is more sustainable.
“We are also working on developing more breakfast club provision and exploring greater use of schools, nurseries and other buildings.”
It’s just not working out for Christina
Christina Macmillan, 34, from Slateford, said the cost of wraparound care for Imogen, six, and Phoebe, one, meant it was not “financially viable” for her to return to work.
“Childcare for both worked out at around £16,000 a year – after tax and pension, I had literally enough to pay for food and bus fares to work,” the freelance picture editor said. “I suppose if there were more things like breakfast clubs in school, that would help with older children and you’d have more to put into care for the younger kids.”