Childcare in the UK ranges from childminders and nannies to nurseries, playgroups and out-of-school provision. However there is a gap between the childcare services available and the childcare services needed. Childcare remains highly fragmented and access to affordable childcare places is extremely limited, especially in disadvantaged urban and rural areas.

The Government’s National Childcare Strategy, launched in May 1998, presented an opportunity for more children and parents to access quality, affordable childcare services in the UK than ever before. However, British parents still pick up most of the childcare bill despite more Government funds being made available to childcare services over recent years. Childcare is the biggest financial burden that parents carry.

A typical full-time nursery place for a two year old costs over £110 a week* – more than £5,700 a year. Regional variations mean that in some parts of the country, (particularly London and the South East,) the cost of a typical nursery place rises to over £7,000 a year*. Compare this with the average woman’s salary which is £17,500 per annum. (Office of National Statistics).

Good quality childcare can have significant positive effect on a child’s development and well-being. However, family factors are still the most important elements in a child’s progress and the most positive outcomes from all forms of childcare are gained when parents are fully involved – getting the right balance can be difficult to achieve, especially if you’re a working mother.