Childcare costs continue to rise – Ministers must deliver on promise of immediate action to support families and sector in crisis

The charity Employers For Childcare, which has, for the past two decades, led the work in Northern Ireland lobbying for better support with childcare, is warning the crisis facing families and the childcare sector continues to worsen. Results from a new survey show more childcare providers are struggling financially while the majority of parents are having to find even more money to pay for the childcare they need to work in 2024. Already at crisis point, neither the sector – nor the families who rely on it – have any more to give.

In a recent poll with childcare providers, the charity found that 73% of providers have either increased their fees to parents since the start of 2024, or plan to do so before the end of June. The average increase is 14%. Worryingly, almost half of childcare providers (46%) described their financial situation as “struggling” or “distressed” indicating the precarious state of the sector, which is so critical to our economy and society. This figure rises even further to 60% of day nurseries who are either focused on survival over the next 12 months or at immediate risk of closure.

Childcare providers have, for the past number of years, been struggling in the face of spiralling costs, and many are now facing a further rise in their outgoings as a result of the increase to the National Living and Minimum Wage from next month.

Commenting on the research findings, Marie Marin, Chief Executive of Employers For Childcare said: “This latest research builds on the picture that we have been presenting for the past number of years of a sector in ever-worsening crisis. We have already seen a number of childcare settings go out of business as they simply couldn’t continue in the absence of investment, and there is a real risk of further closures. This will be disastrous for parents, for children and for our wider economy.

“In the absence of support from Government, their own rising costs mean that childcare providers have no choice but to increase fees to parents, who are already struggling to afford the childcare they need. Many parents are being priced out of the childcare market, leading them to question whether they can continue to work, at a time when employers across many key sectors are struggling to recruit and retain staff.

Marie continued: “We were heartened that our call for childcare to be identified as a day one priority was taken up by Ministers, the new Executive and Stormont Committees earlier this year. Expectations have rightly been raised with families and across the sector that finally, after years of campaigning, we will see meaningful support provided. But the reality is that nothing has yet been delivered and warm words alone will not pay the bills. While we appreciate an ambitious new Early Learning and Childcare Strategy will take some time to deliver, in the meantime we need to see an urgent package of financial support to offset fee increases and deliver a lifeline to families and the childcare sector”.



  1. For further information contact Sandra Bolan, PR & Communications Manager on 0787 247 0323 or email
  2. Employers For Childcare carried out a pulse survey of childcare providers in Northern Ireland from 12 to 17 March 2024. A robust sample of 721 responses were received, with all types of provision represented. Key findings:
    • 56% of providers have increased their fees to parents since the start of 2024.
    • A further 17% plan to increase their fees within the next 3 months.
    • 46% of providers described their financial situation as “struggling” – meaning they are focused on survival over the next 12 months – or “distressed” – meaning they are at immediate risk of closure.
    • This rises to 60% of day nurseries who are “struggling” or “distressed”.
  3. Employers For Childcare is the leading organisation in Northern Ireland campaigning for better support with childcare. Our work is informed through extensive research going back to 2010. Since then, the Northern Ireland Childcare Survey has platformed the views of 50,000 parents and childcare providers. It is the most comprehensive survey into childcare in Northern Ireland. The latest survey is available here, which showed the average cost of a full-time childcare place was over £10,000 a year for one child.
  4. We have used our research, work with colleagues across the sector and international evidence to develop proposals for an Early Learning and Childcare Strategy that would tackle disadvantage through enabling parents to work and helping to give children and young people the best start in life – available here.