Families spending more on childcare than food
Families in Derry are still spending more on childcare than on food and heat.
In fact, for two thirds of families, childcare is their largest or second largest monthly outgoing.
These findings emerged from the recently published 9th Annual Northern Ireland Childcare Cost Childcare Cost Survey.
While this year’s survey found the average cost of a full-time childcare place has dropped slightly to £166 per week, the ability to afford and access childcare is still a significant issue for thousands of families.
Each family’s experience depends on a range of factors including the type of provider they use, with the change overall largely driven by a decrease in the average cost of a childminder place, while the average cost of a day nursery place has actually increased.
The average cost for a full-time childcare place overall in the Derry region is £159 per week, with the average cost of a full-time place in a day nursery costing significantly more at £169 per week.
60% of parents in Derry feel there is insufficient provision of one or more types of childcare in their area, which is above the Northern Ireland average.
One local mum reported that her childcare bill has gone up to more than £250 per week.
“Recently we are struggling to meet our monthly bills due to increased childcare costs. It is causing a lot of stress on our family.
“I’ve reduced my working hours by one day per week as it costs me more to put my children in childcare than I would earn. However, I want to retain my job for the future.”
Aoife Hamilton, Employers For Childcare, revealed that over half of the parents who responded to the survey said they have had to cut back or go without to meet their childcare costs.
“Some have had to resort to borrowing from payday loans to meet their bill,“ she added. “At the same time, many childcare providers told us they have sought not to increase their fees over the past year, in some cases absorbing increasing overheads, rather than passing them on to parents. This situation is simply not sustainable for parents or childcare providers in the longer term.”
The research has also revealed a strong call from parents to bring childcare support in Northern Ireland in line with England where eligible families can receive 30 hours of free childcare for three to four-year olds.
Aoife Hamilton explained: “Families recognise that it is costly to deliver quality childcare, which is why they are expressing their frustration that the sector here is receiving less investment than in other parts of the UK. Introducing policies such as the ‘30-hours free childcare’ would go a long way to alleviating some of the hardship or difficulties experienced by local working families.”
Looking to the future, Aoife Hamilton said: “The message coming from parents is very clear – they want proper investment from government in a childcare infrastructure that is affordable, flexible, and meets the needs of families.”