NEW mothers feel they cannot afford to go back to work because of high childcare costs, a shadow government minister heard on a visit to Ramsbottom.

Parents met with Lucy Powell, Labour’s shadow children’s minister, at Tiddlywinks Nursery in Square Street on Friday to raise their concerns about the rising price of childcare.

Her visit came after a report by the Family and Childcare Trust revealed that the cost of childcare has soared in the past five years, and has overtaken the average mortgage bill.

Labour says it would extend free childcare for three and four-year-olds with parents in work from 15 to 25 hours, which they say would benefit about 1,550 families in Bury.

The party says that in the North West, nursery prices for under-fives are £98 per week.

In addition prices for under- twos have risen by 29 per cent, they have increased by 46 per cent for children over the age of two, and prices for after-school clubs have almost doubled.

In a question and answer session, mothers said they found it difficult to return to work after a period out of the jobs market.

Clare Waterfall-Hallam, from Stubbins, has two young children and said it would cost her more money to return to work, with associated costs such as commuting.

The 35-year-old, who has changed career and is training to become a teacher, said: “I can’t afford to go back to work. I never considered being a full time mum before, not that I don’t want to spend time with my children, but it would cost me more money to go back.

“You feel like you are stuck, whatever decision you make there will be problems. The woman is always going to be the one that is going to make the sacrifices and feel unvalued by society.”

Ms Powell, who is also the MP for Manchester Central, said an increase in free childcare would make a difference, but said much more needed to be done to support mothers.

She said: “We are seeing more and more mums having to stay at home. In the UK, we really don’t compete very well against other countries in terms of the maternal employment rate.

“We want to enable more mums who want to go back to work, to be able to afford to go back to work.

“As we heard, those decisions are often very finely balanced for mums, going back to work may cost them more than they could earn.”

  • Prime Minister David Cameron revealed on Tuesday plans for a new £2,000-a-year tax break for childcare, aimed at allowing parents to choose to go out and work longer hours.

The scheme will be scheduled to come into effect in autumn 2015, and will help around 1.9 million families where both parents work.