13th May 2014
Rural families face higher costs for childcare than their urban counterparts, while having limited family support available, suggests the latest Countryside Living Index published by NFU Mutual. The survey compares quality of life in rural and urban locations.
The index includes an audit of child care services costs and availability. It reveals that average prices for weekly care of an infant sits at 6.3% more in rural areas than in urban locations £202 versus £190 per week
The price differential is likely to be the result of supply and demand, with rural families having few available nurseries within their local area.
Nearly a third of rural parents (31%) have just one nursery or crèche in their local area and a quarter (25%) have none available within easy reach of their home, meaning that less than half (44%) have two or more to choose from.
As a result, a quarter of parents living in the countryside or 24% believe they pay a premium on services because of a lack of choice.
Following recent changes to mortgage affordability rules, such costs will also have to be factored into mortgage questionnaires, which could result in rural families facing tighter lending limits for home loans.
The issue is compounded for rural parents, as they’re less likely to be able to rely on the children’s grandparents to help with childcare because they live too far away, with one in four rural parents (24%) saying that they live too far from their parents for them to regularly help look after children.
Older people are also working for longer, which may be affecting their ability to look after grandchildren. In previous research by the mutual, it was shown that 14% of over 65s were working beyond retirement and 39% of these were expecting to never actually retire.
However, life satisfaction overall, incorporating environment, education provision, local economy, health and crime indicates a greater level of life happiness among people living in the countryside than those in towns and cities.
Tim Price, rural affairs specialist at NFU Mutual, says: “The lack of affordable, accessible child care in the countryside combined with sparse employment opportunities is making it it’s even harder for families to get by when they have young children.
“And with new mortgage rules meaning such expenses need to be factored into mortgage applications, this is another economic issue that young families living in the countryside face.
“However, while rural families do pay more for child care they also enjoy a high level of satisfaction with local education provision and a greater quality of life overall compared to their urban counterparts.”
The research was conducted by ICM research between 28th March and 10th April 2014. Responses were obtained from 1,635 GB & NI adults, of which 1,329 are from rural areas of Great Britain and 306 from urban areas.
The study also included an audit of day care nurseries, where 931 nurseries (weighted to be representative of the spread of rural and urban people around GB and NI) were randomly selected and audited for weekly cost for a full time (50 hours per week) infant, under two years of age (plus food costs).
The audit of 931 nurseries (weighted to be representative of the spread of rural and urban people around GB and NI) showed rural nurseries averaging £202 a week vs urban at £190 a week. This is for a child of under two years old in full time care (50h a week).