It's like we're penalised for having decent jobs: Belfast family
Belfast couple Catherine Black (37), a business analyst, and computer programmer Sean (40) have two children - Daniel, who is five, and three-year-old Hannah.
During term time their combined childcare costs amount to £1,460 a month, rising to £1,560 a month over July and August, with a total summer childcare bill of £3,120. This equates to £390 a week.
Daniel is coming to the end of Primary One and attends breakfast club every day before school. His nursery collects him when school finishes at 2pm and he stays in day care until 6.30pm. His term time place costs £125 a week, rising to £150 a week during summer.
His sister Hannah has a full-time nursery place - five days a week, from 7.30am until 6.30pm - which costs £960 a month, or £240 per week. The cost of her nursery place will remain the same during the summer.
They avail of the government's tax-free childcare scheme, which means they get £2,000 per year per child, bringing their annual bill down from around £17,720 to £13,720.
Catherine said: "We won't have a holiday this year because our summer childcare bill is exorbitant.
"It's still worth my while to work but by the time we pay our £1,500 monthly mortgage we don't have a lot of disposable income.
"We have no family support in Belfast so we have no option but to use a childcare provider.
"My husband and I both work so we can give our children some of the things that we didn't have when we were growing up, but it's a juggling act and I often bring home work with me in the evening so that I can do the nursery run.
"We both have good jobs but it feels like we're being penalised for that and it's as if we're part of the 'squeezed middle'. The irony is that I'm paying someone else to raise my children - although I try not to think about it.
"It would be a good starting point if the government offered 30 hours' free childcare in Northern Ireland, like they do in England."