Rural families face higher costs for childcare than their urban counterparts, while having limited family support available, says a report released today.
The Countryside Living Index, now in its third year, conducted by NFU Mutual, compares quality of life in rural vs. urban locations and 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 vs £190 per week).
The price differential is being put down to 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 (24%) feel like they pay a premium on services because of a lack of choice.
Following recent changes to mortgage legislation, 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.
Yet while rural people do face many higher costs than urbanites, they also feel it’s worth it. 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, said: “The lack of affordable, accesible child care in the countryside combined with sparse empolyment opportunties 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.”