Our new report The Cost of a Child in the Twenty-First Century, produced with the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, reveals that parents are clear that life changes profoundly as a result of having children. It’s not simply a case of having to buy a pram, clothes and other child-related items. Parents go out less, prioritise their children’s needs above their own and struggle to find time for themselves.
The basic cost of raising children - £143,000 - has risen faster than inflation. This is partly down to high food and fuel price inflation, which hits families with children harder because these items are such a large component of family spending.
One of the main contributing costs is childcare; with costs adding up to as much as £60,000 to the total cost of childhood. Since 2008, while CPI inflation has risen by 14 per cent, childcare costs have soared by 30 per cent outside London and 50 per cent in London. But the main state support for childcare costs is through tax credits and it was cut by 12.5 per cent in April 2011.
As the cost of a child rises, government financial support for parents is being scaled back. Child Benefit has been frozen since 2010 and will have lost 10 per cent of its value by 2014. Currently it meets only 20 per cent of childhood costs on average for couple families. Even the maximum state support available only meets between 73 per cent and 94 per cent of basic costs for children.
The picture does not get any better for working parents. A full time job on national minimum wage for couple families, combined with benefits and tax credits, only meets 82 per cent of the basic costs of a child.
Helping parents with the cost of children is a national responsibility. If we do nothing, then we're likely to be condemning many children to poverty, damaging and destroying childhoods and life chances. We may also be inflicting long term damage on UK plc because we know high child poverty rates result in higher public spending and produce a less skilled workforce.
The price society pays for child poverty is why we should all be helping parents cope with the cost of a child.