Parents are finding it increasingly expensive to raise children, who now cost an average £148,000 over 18 years, a new report has warned.
The Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) said families are being increasingly “squeezed by rising prices and stagnant wages”. It also warns that families are not receiving enough support from the state.
The basic cost of raising a child – excluding rent, childcare and council tax – is £81,772, the report estimates. But this figure almost doubles to £148,105 when childcare is included.
CPAG found that parents have been hammered in recent years by the spiralling cost of childcare. Inflation has been high compared to wages – rising at 17 per cent between 2008 and 2013, while wages have only increased by 5 per cent on average.
Yet at the same time, childcare has increased by 37 per cent.
That is reflected in figures showing that children are most expensive in their first five years, costing £231 a week until they are two, and £200 a week afterwards. After the age of five, when they start school, the cost drops below the £200 mark, and by the time they are 14 they cost £110 a week on average.
The report predicts the UK government’s move from a range of tax credits to a universal benefit will not reduce child poverty.
“While universal credit does not make any difference to the safety net support given to families, in some cases it reduces the family’s ability to move closer to an acceptable family living standard by working full time,” the report found.
The group also criticised current levels of support. The value of benefits for families and children rose by just 1 per cent last year, and child benefit did not go up at all. Alison Garnham, chief executive of CPAG, said: “This research paints a stark picture of families being squeezed by rising prices and stagnant wages, yet receiving ever-diminishing support from the government over the course of the last year.”
She added: “Child benefit and child tax credit have been cut at the very time families need them most.”
Katie Schmuecker, policy and research manager at the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, which co-funded the research, added: “The task of making ends meet for families with children has always been hard, but is getting harder, and balancing family budgets has become a perilous and delicate act for hard-pressed parents.”
Campaigners warn some Scottish families are buckling under the strain. Alison Todd, director of child and family services at Children 1st, said: “Some of the families we work with really struggle to make ends meet and we see first hand the impact this can have on their children, making their childhood less safe, secure and happy.”
CPAG called for more support from the state. But a UK government spokesman said: “We know times are tough. That is why we are taking action to help families with the cost of living by cutting income tax for 25 million people, which will save a typical taxpayer over £700.”
A Scottish Government spokeswoman added: “At a time when the UK Government’s austerity programme is placing household budgets under financial pressure, we are protecting household incomes through the Social Wage. This includes abolition of tuition fees, maintaining access to free school meals, scrapping prescription charges, free eye examinations, freezing council tax, concessionary bus passes and increasing the provision of free nursery education.”