The Family and Childcare Trust wants the government to introduce a long-term strategy to reduce childcare costs and improve disadvantaged children’s access to early education.
The charity recommends an extension of pupil premium funding to help disadvantaged children aged two to four gain access to high-quality, affordable childcare places.
It also wants the government to extend its offer of 15 hours of free childcare for disadvantaged two-year-olds to all children of that age group and calls for better use of schools and children’s centres for the delivery of flexible provision.
The call comes after the charity’s annual Childcare Costs Survey found that a family with two children spends up to £7,549 a year on part-time childcare – a level that is 4.7 per cent higher than the average UK mortgage cost.
Anand Shukla, chief executive of the Family and Childcare Trust, said: “When even part-time childcare costs outstrip the average mortgage for a family home it’s clear that our childcare system isn’t fit for purpose.
“We need a childcare system that helps parents who want to work and contribute to the economy and gives children the best start in life.”
Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Pre-school Learning Alliance, has backed the charity’s call.
He said: “Relying on providers to continue to prop up a flawed system is not a sustainable solution – the government simply must start investing properly in the early years sector.
“The current situation is simply untenable in the long-term.”
Similarly, Dr Steven Toole, head of policy at 4Children, said reforming childcare should be central to economic recovery.
“As we emerge from the economic crisis, we need to invest in making Britain great for families and radically reshaping this country’s childcare offer is a key part of this.
“It is time for politicians and decision makers to demonstrate a real commitment to struggling families and come forward with detailed, long-term proposals for how they intend to address this escalating problem for families up and down the country,” he said.
However, childcare minister Elizabeth Truss said the trust's latest figures showed childcare costs are falling.
She said: “After 12 years of consistently rising prices, costs in England have stabilised for the first time – in fact once inflation is taken into account costs for the majority have actually fallen.
“These reductions contrast with rising costs in Scotland and Wales, highlighting the difference this government’s reforms are making.”