The Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) has published its latest Cost of a Child report which reveals what it costs to raise a child to age 18, based on what the public thinks is a minimum standard of living.

The report for 2018 finds that the overall cost of a child (including rent and childcare) is £150,753 for a couple and £183,335 for a lone parent. The charity says rising prices, freezes on benefits and tax credit, the bedroom tax and the roll-out of Universal Credit is hitting family budgets hard.

The costs of a child are calculated according to a minimum standard of income that covers the costs of essentials such as food, clothes and shelter as well as other costs necessary to participate in society, such as childcare. CPAG looks at the needs of different family types and is informed by what ordinary members of the public feel is necessary for both couples and lone parents bringing up children.

Although the figures are an improvement on last year, families with two parents currently working full time on the National Living Wage (NLW) are still 11% (£49 per week) short of the income needed for an acceptable, no-frills standard of living.

For lone parents, even a reasonably paid job (on median earnings) will leave them 15% (£56 per week) short of an adequate income because of the high cost of childcare. A lone parent working full time on the NLW will be 20% (£74 per week) short of what they need to achieve a minimum standard of living.

The report says that the cost of a child is heavily influenced by the cost of childcare, which is a major strain on working low and middle-income families. The cost of a full-time childcare place over the course of childhood amounts to £80,000, around half of the total cost of bringing up a child.

While the report recognises that the introduction of the 30-hour free childcare scheme has helped, it says that parents can face difficulties finding places. It also finds that low-income families facing high childcare costs often choose to limit their working hours, which reduces family income significantly.

Alison Garnham, Chief Executive of CPAG, said:

“Today, the majority of children growing up in poverty have working parents. While the number of parents in work is increasing, income from work alone is not sufficient to enable some to meet their families’ needs or escape poverty and the cost of a child is substantial.

“There is strong public support for Government topping-up the wages of low-paid parents and investing in children is the best long-term investment we can make. By using the forthcoming budget to unfreeze benefits and restore work allowances, the Government can take steps towards making work really pay.”

The full report is available here.

Last reviewed 27 August 2018