£16,000: the staggering annual cost of childcare for struggling families
Hard-pressed families in Northern Ireland are paying up to a staggering £16,000 per year in childcare costs, it has emerged.
A survey of 2,500 parents by the Employers For Childcare Charitable Group reveals that families with two children are paying out just £2,000 shy of the average worker’s annual £18,000 salary on childcare.
The charity report indicates, with family budgets being squeezed by the high cost of childcare, many parents are feeling the pressure and are often forced to reduce working hours or leave the workplace altogether.
The average family here is allocating a massive percentage of their salary towards childcare and around 50% of the survey participants said the cost of childcare has influenced the number of hours they work.
At Stormont yesterday the chief executive of the Employers For Childcare Charitable Group, Marie Marin, explained parents are finding it increasingly difficult to cope with the burden of childcare costs as demands on their salary increase.
“We have long argued that childcare is a long-standing barrier to employment, with many parents struggling to meet their childcare costs,” Ms Marin said.
“We hope that, through our report launch, that the Northern Ireland Executive starts investing more into childcare services.”
Ulster Unionist MLA Basil McCrea, who is also chairman of the committee for employment and learning, agreed more must be done to support Ulster’s working parents.
“It is essential that working parents have access to affordable, appropriate childcare,” Mr McCrea said.
“The report highlights the real challenges that parents face here.
“We need to do more and invest in a decent childcare infrastructure.”
Alliance MLA Anna Lo said childcare is a “real barrier for many women” wanting to work or return to work. “It is far too expensive to justify going out to work,” Ms Lo added.
“A large proportion of wages go to childminders and make it that parents cannot afford to go out to work.
“It’s important that we look at measures to enable women to have choices.”
Jackie Valentine, director of Parenting NI, added that childcare cost is an issue raised time and time again by parents struggling with spiralling utility bills and the battle to strike the right work and life balance. “Parents say to us about this issue all the time,” Ms Valentine said.
“New bills are coming in and they are all going up.
“Lots of parents are finding themselves going into debt to pay childcare costs, which has a massive strain on family life. We would urge parents to be practical and offer each other support.
“Parents don’t realise they are in the same boat as their peers, so sharing the load can be a huge help.”
Employers For Childcare Charitable Group encompasses a registered charity and a social enterprise that provides expertise in childcare and work-related issues to help parents, employers, employees and childcare providers.
Its mission is to make it easier for parents with dependent children to get into work and stay in work.