A major new study has revealed the impact of caring for children during the Covid-19 crisis.
Employers for Childcare say the findings make a compelling case for the Executive to ensure childcare support is a priority.
The research revealed three quarters of parents were unable to access any childcare for some or all of the time, during the early months of the pandemic.
Parents reported challenges around juggling work and home schooling, as well as the pressure having a negative impact on their physical and mental well-being.
One in five parents used annual or unpaid leave to manage childcare when provision was impacted. Meanwhile, over a quarter of respondents said they worked outside normal hours.
Some parents say they had no choice but to leave work all together.
“Very challenging and the most stressful time of my life”
Employers for Childcare say parents are reporting that they can’t continue to work if they struggle to access affordable childcare, while providers say they can’t continue to deliver high quality care if it is unsustainable for them to do so.
Aoife Hamilton, Head of Charity Services, said the research highlighted that the difficulties faced by parents had been exacerbated but not caused by Covid-19.
“This is the 11th year of our research and for years, hard-pressed families have been crying out for better support with childcare,” she said.
“Even before the pandemic, many households were struggling, with four in 10 families reporting using means other than income (such as loans and credit cards) to pay their childcare bill.
“Ongoing uncertainty around restrictions, combined with concerns about the impact of reduced hours or household income, furlough and potential redundancy for some due to Covid-19, all serve to compound the challenges faced by families, and their worries at this time.”
She added: “Covid-19 has demonstrated how vital childcare is for families and to our economy – just as our key workers needed roads and public transport in order to provide essential services, they also needed childcare so they could go to work. Looking ahead, the plea from parents is that we cannot go back to a situation where they are expected to work, and yet unable to access the vital child care they need.”
The research also pointed to the struggles faced by childcare providers, with many reporting financial strains.
Aoife Hamilton said some providers made a loss or broke even.
“Covid-19 has only heightened the pressures on childcare providers, who have had to adapt, introducing infection control measures to ensure the safety of children in their care, with many experiencing a decrease in their occupancy levels,” she said.
The charity has called for urgent Government action to support parents and the childcare sector, including investment in infrastructure.
Help & Support
Parents and carers can call Employers For Childcare’s Family Benefits Advice Service on Freephone 0800 028 3008 for free, impartial and confidential advice