The cost of sending a child to a nursery in the UK has risen by more than 25% in five years, according to a survey by national childcare charity Daycare Trust.
A typical full-time nursery place for a child under two now costs £142 a week, almost £7,400 a year. This compares with average earnings of £431 a week last year.
The increase outstrips inflation by nearly 20%.
Parents paying the highest costs could be spending almost £21,000 a year for a full-time nursery place, the study of 150 childcare services showed.
The highest childcare rates were found in London and the South East, with a nursery place for a child under two typically costing £197 a week in central London.
But the South East was the only region of the country where there has been no increase in nursery costs in the past 12 months.
The lowest rates were in the Midlands and the North East.
The largest increases in costs were in Wales with a 7% rise and Scotland with an 8% rise, compared to 2% in England.
The highest childcare rates in the survey were charged by childminders rather than nurseries, with a full-time childminder costing an average of £130 a week or £163 a week in central London.
Christine Walton, chief executive of Daycare Trust, said: “We urgently need a review of the funding system for childcare to ensure that all children have access to good quality services, regardless of their family income.”
Daycare Trust is urging the government to invest in high-quality early education and childcare services by:
- Ensuring that local authorities have adequate funding and resources to develop childcare services which meet the needs of all families who want them in their areas.
- Conducting an independent review of the whole early education and childcare funding system for the 2007 Comprehensive Spending Review.
- Investing more on supply-side funding and phasing out the reliance on tax credits to pay for childcare costs.
- Increasing the free entitlement to early years education to 20 hours per week for 48 weeks a year for all two-, three- and four-year-olds.
- Introducing income-related subsidies for wrap-around care.
The Childcare Bill currently going through Parliament will place a new duty on local authorities to provide sufficient childcare for all working families in their areas from 2008. It does not, however, address the affordability of childcare.