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Families face ‘extremely difficult’ summer due to increased childcare costs

The average cost of a full-time childcare place in Northern Ireland is £166 per week, equating to over one third of median household income according to Employers For Childcare. Credit: PA

Parents are facing a ‘difficult’ summer due to increasing childcare costs, as providers also struggle to break even.

That’s according to new research by Employers For Childcare.

A report reveals the cost of a week’s holiday childcare for school aged children has soared by £52 over the last 10 years, and now costs £145 on average.

The study found that that two in five households in Northern Ireland are using means other than their income, such as savings, credit cards, even payday loans, to cover the cost of their childcare bill.

In lone parent households, this rises to 51%.

The research suggests that parents are continuing to struggle to afford childcare, with almost half of those surveyed reporting cutting back or going without another expense in order to pay their bill.

A graph comparing monthly outgoings. Credit: Employers For Childcare

Aoife Hamilton, Policy and Information Manager at Employers For Childcare, explains: “Securing suitable childcare can be extremely difficult during holiday periods, and one in two families with a school aged child reported their childcare costs increase during the school break.

"Others have highlighted difficulties in accessing the provision they need, pointing to a lack of holiday and wrap around childcare.

"Due to a shortfall in support for our vital childcare sector, the 8-week school holiday – which should be about fun and enjoyment – can add stress and strain for many parents.”

She went on: “While our research finds that families are struggling to afford the childcare they need, we also found that childcare providers are experiencing increased costs and challenges to their own sustainability.

"Some report that they feel they have no option but to leave the sector as they struggle to break even. This is unacceptable and fails to reflect the value of our vital childcare infrastructure, it’s clear this is an issue which demands urgent attention”.

Employers For Childcare reveals the cost of a week’s holiday childcare for school aged children has soared by £52 over the last ten years, and now costs £145 on average. The figures are revealed as the charity launches its 10th Annual Northern Ireland Childcare Survey in Parliament Buildings. Credit: Employers For Childcare

Employers For Childcare is say without a childcare strategy in place, the situation ‘needs urgent’ attention from Government.

The figures are revealed as the charity launches its 10th Northern Ireland Childcare Survey, focusing on the cost, affordability and provision of childcare in Northern Ireland.

Aoife Hamilton said the survey gave a voice to parents and childcare providers.

“This report is unique in directly representing the views of families and childcare providers. On their behalf, we are calling for a fundamental overhaul of the system to ensure a high quality, sustainable childcare infrastructure that is affordable for parents to access, and for providers to deliver. In the context of the current talks, our elected representatives must prioritise investment in childcare underpinned by a fully costed childcare strategy which learns from experiences in other jurisdictions and is supported by legislation.”