Editor's Viewpoint: More help is needed with childcare costs as parents find it difficult to cope
The cost of childcare in Northern Ireland, which averages £168 a week for each youngster, is so prohibitive that many of our parents are finding it extremely difficult to cope.
The latest figures reveal that some here are spending almost 40% of their household income on childcare.
Some of the individual examples are disturbing.
Today we carry the story of one couple who are paying more than twice their mortgage on childcare.
Another couple, with a combined income of £42,000, are paying £18,240 a year.
By the time they pay for childcare, working families are left struggling to manage the household budget.
In many cases couples choose to stay in work to fund a decent standard of living, but during the years when their children are growing up they have to rely on childcare, and that can be soul-destroying.
In the last few decades our lifestyles have changed radically, with mothers choosing to work for purely economic reasons or because they are building a career and don't want to be absent from the workplace for too long.
This may be due to fear of slipping behind in the employment hierarchy, or because they work for reasons of self-worth, or both.
Whatever the motive, it seems unreasonable that some young mothers have to forfeit a large part of their salary on childcare for the privilege of being part of the workforce.
Our stories in today's paper are of hardworking families who clearly feel that there is not enough financial support for them.
Undoubtedly, the pressures are greatest on those who cannot rely on grandparents or other family members or friends to look after their offspring.
The Government does provide some support in the form of childcare benefits, but many people are still struggling.
They include the squeezed middle, who don't get any benefit but are not well off enough to sustain the paying of childcare costs.
Much more needs to be done to provide further free nursery places and school and breakfast clubs to help ease this significant burden on young families.
We must invest more resources to support parents who are bringing up the new generations, because children are very much part of the future well-being of our society.