New report questions whether work pays for parents in Northern Ireland

The cost of childcare in Northern Ireland is leaving parents 'pay neutral', with a single parent spending on average 44 per cent of their weekly income on daycare for one child, according to a new report.

The Northern Ireland Childcare Costs 2012 Survey by charity Employers for Childcare found that on average the childcare costs for one working parent with one child equates to 44 per cent of their total weekly salary, based on net weekly earnings of £352.41.

The average cost of a full-time (50 hours) childcare place in Northern Ireland is £156 per week, a £2 increase on last year’s figures.

Childminders are slightly more expensive than nurseries, a trend which was apparent in 2011.

According to the survey of almost 4,000 parents, childcare costs in Northern Ireland vary regionally with more populated, urban counties such as Antrim and Down reporting the highest costs, and rural counties reporting the lowest costs.

Parents also reported that the cost of out-of-school clubs have increased over the last year, in particular for breakfast clubs.

Nearly half of respondents said that the cost of childcare had influenced the number of hours that they work. For many this meant reducing from full-time to part-time hours or working the same number of hours but over fewer days.

More than 40 per cent of parents used informal childcare provided by family members in order to save money.

The authors of the report conclude that the ‘costs of childcare often eradicate financial benefits of working leaving parents ‘pay neutral’, which raises questions about whether or not it actually pays to work.’

They go on to say that the current childcare infrastructure is failing ordinary working families.

Marie Marin, chief executive officer of Employers for Childcare, said, ‘Our third annual Childcare Costs Survey paints a worrying picture for families in Northern Ireland. With many parents forced into reducing their working hours or leaving employment all together, it is paramount that the Northern Ireland Executive moves forward with the childcare strategy.’

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