28/09/2011

Hundreds More Childminder Places Sought

NI's Childminding Association (NICMA) has launched a report today that proposes the creation of an additional 900 childminding places annually over the next four years.

The proposal, which was launched at Stormont's Parliament Buildings, is part of a package of measures that NICMA is urging the Northern Ireland Executive to adopt.

The news came as the huge cost of childcare for working parents was being highlighted in a separate report this week - underling that this cost was eating up almost all of one partner's salary in an average two-child family group.

NICMA's Director, Bridget Nodder said of their proposals launched on Wednesday: "The Executive has committed £12m towards childcare over the next four years.

"There are many problems which that funding can be used to tackle, including the need for more affordable and high quality childcare places.

"We wanted to make a positive contribution to the Executive's challenging task in determining how best to spend that funding, and that's why we've produced these proposals," she said.

Registered childminding is the most popular form of full-time childcare in Northern Ireland, accounting for 61% of full-time day care places.

However, the number of registered childminders has fallen in recent years and many parents have problems finding childcare; a survey carried out for NICMA by Ipsos MORI found nearly a third (30%) of parents who had recently looked for childcare had found their search difficult, with 43% of those in rural areas encountering problems.

Huge Costs

It's a costly business too, as it also emerged this week that parents in Northern Ireland are spending on average 45% of their weekly joint income on childcare.

The Childcare Costs Survey by the charity Employers for Childcare found that this was the average cost of childcare costs for two working parents with one child.

For households with two children, the average family size in Northern Ireland, this is the equivalent of 90% of one parent's salary based on an average childcare cost of £154 per child a week, or £16,042 a year for childcare for both children.

According to the survey of around 2,500 parents, the majority of families use a day nursery as their main form of childcare.

On average a nursery place costs around £154 per week for a child under two-years-old and £153 for a child over the age of two, a slight drop in price from last year's figures.

Childminding costs are slightly higher than day nursery fees at £155 per week, whereas day nurseries had the highest costs in 2010.

However, childcare costs are very much dependent on region, with urban counties such as Antrim and Down coming out more expensive than in rural counties such as Tyrone and Fermanagh, where care is less flexible and not as accessible.

The Childcare Costs survey follows research earlier this month by the Daycare Trust and Save the Children that revealed low-income families across the UK have to turn down work because they cannot afford to pay for childcare.

(BMcC/GK)

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