About the Northern Ireland Childcare Survey series

About the Northern Ireland Childcare Survey

Since 2010, Employers For Childcare has been tracking the views and experiences of parents and childcare providers through the Northern Ireland Childcare Survey – the most comprehensive suite of research into Northern Ireland’s childcare sector and those who rely on it. Having established a strong baseline of evidence through our first 12 surveys, going forward we will be conducting this research every two years, rather than on an annual basis, with the next due to be carried out in 2023.

Over the last decade and more, we’ve used the evidence gathered from 50,000 responses to inform our calls for an ambitious new Childcare Strategy and for investment in this critical sector. In that time, we’ve seen:

  • Rising costs for parents across the board – with the largest increase in day nurseries, where the average cost for a full-time place has gone up by almost 20%.
  • Rising costs for childcare providers – 71% of whom reported they were either just breaking even or making a loss in our last report.
  • The negative impact of Covid-19 both on childcare providers and on families, but also the model of Government support for the sector during this period which provided a real lifeline.
  • Parents – particularly mothers – continuing to be squeezed out of the workforce by the cost of childcare which, consistently for a third of households, is their largest household bill, ahead of their mortgage or rent.
  • Emerging challenges for childcare providers, including difficulties recruiting and retaining the vital staff they need, as they try to balance investment in their settings with limiting fee increases to parents – all in the absence of a Childcare Strategy and much needed Government investment.

A clear theme has emerged over these years. Both parents and childcare providers have expressed their view that the childcare sector is undervalued and needs to be much better supported by Government. There is strong recognition that quality, accessible and affordable childcare is:

  • Good for children – having a positive impact on their learning, social and emotional development
  • Good for parents – as key to enabling them to get into, stay in and progress in work
  • Good for our economy and society as a whole.

“Childcare needs to be subsidised by the Government, so it is more affordable to parents, and ensure that formal childcare settings have the resources they require to provide quality childcare.” (Parent)

“Childcare sector should be better supported and funded to maintain the high standard of service to children and their parents and promote their wellbeing, and meet their needs. Hence it will also help to support and improve our economy. Thank you!” (Childcare provider)

“Childcare has to be addressed as a government policy. Other countries are doing a better job. Here parents are seen as a burden on the workplace, on their colleagues, on society. Someone has to raise the next generation, and that is a societal issue that needs to be supported by government, to ensure the next generation get the best start in life.” (Parent)

“Childcare is the forgotten essential workforce, we need it to keep the parents in work and are so badly underfunded.” (Childcare provider)

“Both my husband and I work full time. My husband is on minimum wage and so his entire wage goes on childcare. It is unaffordable when you have no alternative support. I have sleepless nights worrying about the cost of childcare. It is soul destroying.” (Parent)

Statistical resource

The full suite of Northern Ireland Childcare Surveys is available to view and download from our website. They provide robust statistics, and have enabled trends and patterns to be charted over a number of years. They also include direct quotes from parents and childcare providers – offering an insight into their experience that really brings the statistics to life.

The reports are designed to be of use to our elected representatives and government departments in helping to secure and shape better support for the sector, and those who rely on it. The findings have been widely used by academics, third sector and civic society organisations and others to highlight the real challenges that exist within the system. And these challenges are far-reaching – from gender equality and women’s employment, through child development and educational outcomes, to rising poverty levels and economic growth and prosperity.

At Employers For Childcare, we have used the findings to inform our lobbying and campaigning work, to respond to public consultations, engage with policy makers and focus our energies on achieving a childcare system that is affordable, accessible and flexible to meet the needs of families, employers, childcare professionals and providers.

Do not hesitate to get in touch with Employers For Childcare by emailing hello@employersforchildcare.org if you have any questions about the research, or would like more information.

Looking ahead

Looking ahead, it is vital that this invaluable resource is used to inform the work that is ongoing to develop a new Childcare Survey. And as we see that work resulting in new policies and initiatives the Northern Ireland Childcare Survey will be vital to assessing their impact, charting progress and holding policy makers to account.

Thank you

Finally, and most importantly, we would like to thank the tens of thousands of parents and childcare providers who have taken the time to complete the surveys over the years, helping to build such a robust evidence base – and for being the most powerful advocates for investment in this vital sector. We will continue to use the information you give us to work on your behalf.