Families Under Strain This Summer As Childcare Costs Rise

Many parents are set for an "extremely difficult" summer due to increasing childcare costs, a report has found.

The average cost of a full-time childcare place in Northern Ireland is £166 per week, equating to over one third of median household incomes, the charity Employers for Childcare has found.

As care providers face their own sustainability challenges, the summer holiday period is predicted to be a time of "stress and strain for many parents".

Aoife Hamilton, Policy and Information Manager at Employers For Childcare, explained: "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 wraparound 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."

Two in every five households in Northern Ireland use other means than their income to meet the costs, such as savings, credit cards or even payday loans- a concerning figure as the summer break approaches.

The figures have been revealed as the charity launches its 10th NI Childcare Survey today, Wednesday 19 June. County Armagh continues to have the highest cost of £173 per week, while County Fermanagh experiences the lowest of £153.
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Ms Hamilton continued: "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."

Launching the report, Employers for Childcare hopes to bring the issue to the heart of Government. The charity is 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.

The research also found that almost half of parents are cutting back or going without another expense in order to meet childcare bills, a figure that rises to 63% in lone parent households. More than one in ten lone parent households report spending over half their household income on childcare.

Ms Hamilton added: "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."

Parents and carers can call Employers For Childcare's Family Benefits Advice Service on Freephone 0800 028 3008 for free, impartial and confidential advice on the financial support available towards the cost of childcare and other family benefits.


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