High price of bringing up baby

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The Independent Online
Bringing up baby is no cheap matter - it will set you back on average pounds 50,000 by the time your little darling turns 17, according to the first results from a new national study.

And while parents provide 90 per cent of the spending on regular items such as food, clothing, childcare and holidays, grandparents are also contributing pounds 115 per child per year.

The study, supported by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, looked at the lifestyles and living standards of more than 1,200 children in Britain. It found that nearly pounds 1,000 is spent every year on food, pounds 260 on clothes, pounds 186 on schooling, plus pounds 333 on Christmas and birthday presents.

But even in low income families average spending on children is only slightly less than on children as a whole, with parents preferring to sacrifice spending on themselves than see their children go without.

One in 20 mothers will go without food to ensure their children have enough to eat and the vast majority will sometimes go without clothes, shoes or holidays to provide for their children.

Even so, one in ten children have parents unable to afford at least three of the things most families take for granted - such as having three meals a day, sleeping in a bed of their own and wearing new and properly fitting shoes. A further one in 30 children are defined as "severely poor" because they go without five or more of these necessities.

The report found that average spending by parents is much higher than income support allowances for children. Taking into account family premiums, income support allowances provide only 70 per cent of what is actually being spent on children in families which are on income support. In contrast recommended levels of foster care allowances are very similar to average spending on children.

While food is the biggest single item of spending on children, education is also proving expensive. Parents are having to cough up about pounds 6 a week when their children are at school, for items which could be seen as a vital part of the school curriculum such as books, school trips and extra lessons.

Overall, girls and boys have the same amount of money spent on them although it varies from item to item. Girls at secondary school spend three times as much on telephone calls as their male peers.

The average cost of childcare is also about pounds 4 a week, but the researchers said that the childcare disregard announced in last week's Budget will make a "great deal of difference". "It seems this change will enable lone parents with more than one child to meet the formal costs of childcare," said Sue Middleton, author of the report, although she warned that the majority of mothers relied on more informal means of care such as friends and relatives.

"They use childminders not after-school clubs," she added. "It seems to us that rather than pay thousands of young women to become NNEBs, we should be directing resources better towards training and recruitment, support for childminders."

Children use a variety of strategies to get what they want from their parents, Ms Middleton said. "We've identified pleading, negotiation, bargaining, tantrums, the 'I'll have it for Christmas' trick, and blackmail - saying they need it for school. Parents will do anything to make sure their children have what they need for school."

9 Small Fortunes: Spending on children, childhood poverty and parental sacrifice, is available from York Publishing Services, 64 Hallfield Rd, Layerthorpe, York, YO3 7XQ; pounds 13.45.

The cost of kids

Parents' weekly spend per child:


Food 18.32

Clothes 4.48

Nappies 1.02

School 3.44

Activities 4.57

Baby-sitting 0.56

Telephone 0.29

Other regular

spending 4.15

Other money 0.69

Christmas 3.22

Birthdays 1.60

Holidays/outings 4.86

Average per week 47.20

Childcare 4.09

Avg incl childcare 51.29