Social Justice

6 in 10 women say the cost of childcare was a reason they had an abortion

Charity Pregnant Then Screwed says the government's response to the childcare "crisis" has been "wholly inadequate".

The average cost of a part-time nursery place (25 hours) for a child under two is £138.00 a week. That’s more than £7,000 a year. Image: Unsplash

Six in 10 women who have had an abortion claim the extortionate cost of childcare was a key reason for their decision, according to new research. 

Mothers told the charity Pregnant then Screwed they are “being pushed into poverty” and cannot afford to care for their children. Other women said they had no choice but to abort wanted babies because of the “shambles” of the childcare system.

The charity surveyed 1,630 women who have had an abortion in the last five years. A total of 60.5 per cent said the cost of childcare influenced their decision. Meanwhile, 17.4 per cent – almost one in five – said that it was the main reason for having an abortion.

Joeli Brearley, founder of Pregnant Then Screwed said: “Childcare costs are pushing families into poverty and forcing women to terminate wanted pregnancies. This is a crisis and the government’s response has been wholly inadequate.”

According to the Family and Childcare Trust, the average cost of a part-time nursery place (25 hours) for a child under two is £138.00 a week. That’s more than £7,000 a year. 

The government recently announced plans to reduce childcare costs by changing staff-to-child ratios from 1:4 to 1:5 for two-year-olds. Ministers claimed this could save families up to 15 per cent on childcare costs, or up to £40 per week for a family paying £265 per week for care.

But these proposals have come under fire from campaigners. Brearley said: “The recent government proposal to increase ratios will have little to no impact on costs, instead it will only serve to create a lower quality system, further deterring women from using our childcare provision.”

The charity’s founder condemned MPs who have “recently shown disdain for women who terminate a pregnancy”. Last month, a total of 61 Conservative MPs voted against the government’s plans to extend abortion access in Northern Ireland. A further 190 did not record a vote. Brearley argued these same MPs are “doing little to fix the systems which force them to make this decision”. 

One mother told Pregnant then Screwed: “I’m a student nurse. Studying full time hours and my partner works 45 hours a week. Our household income is not great but I don’t qualify for any childcare help this academic year. Next academic year we get £227 for the whole academic year to cover five days a week of childcare at £54 a day. We get no universal credit, no free hours or tax free childcare because I’m a student so classed as not working.

“We are drowning in debt, struggling to feed our son and are unable to afford basics such as petrol, food, utilities. Before I started this degree the cost was doable. With inflation and the cost of living soaring we are crippling. I’ve had to go back on antidepressants because I just can’t cope any more. We are being pushed into poverty.”

The survey also revealed that of 28,000 women who already had a child, 62 per cent said that childcare costs were a factor in their decision not to have more  children. One in four said it was the key reason they didn’t have more children.

One woman said: “I have found it heartbreaking that I have had to have an abortion primarily because we could not afford the cost of childcare. If I had continued my pregnancy of a much wanted child I would have had to quit my job to care for them, this would have meant we had to sell our home as one salary would not cover the bills. 

“This would have been detrimental to my one child. The system is a shambles and it is so upsetting. It is horrendous that myself and my husband are both professionals yet we cannot afford a second child due to the first years of their life requiring child care.”

Neil Leitch, the CEO of the Early Years Alliance, said the survey showed the childcare system was “fundamentally broken”.

He added: “Years of underfunding coupled with rising costs has forced the closure of countless early years settings, while others have been pushed to the brink, leaving them no choice but to increase costs to make ends meet.”

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