Urgent package of support needed to support childcare sector

Employers For Childcare is warning that childcare fees are set to rise for many parents as a result of spiralling costs for childcare providers, adding to the significant pressures on already hard-pressed families. This could lead to parents being priced out of affording the childcare they need to work, at a time when many employers are already struggling to find and retain staff. While the strain on providers could mean some are at risk of going out of business, making it even more difficult for families to access the childcare they need.

In recent weeks, the charity has been contacted by worried parents, who have received notification of fee increases in the region of 10% plus, as well as by childcare providers, who are conscious of the impact rising fees will have on hard-pressed families and are exploring ways to support parents at this difficult time.

The cost of operating a childcare setting has never been higher. Childcare providers, like households, are facing rising costs for essentials particularly energy for heating, fuel and electricity. These costs are set to rise further when the increase to National Living and Minimum Wages, take effect from April as well as increases to rates for those operating group childcare settings.

Aoife Hamilton, Head of Charity Services at Employers For Childcare commented: “These latest increases to childcare fees, coming on top of earlier fee increases post-Covid will have a significant detrimental effect on hard-pressed working families. Many parents are already telling us they are paying more for their childcare than their mortgage and we are seeing parents, especially mothers, being forced out of the workplace due to not being able to find or afford the childcare they need. This is bad for our economy at a time when employers across all sectors are struggling to recruit and retain staff, as well as leaving families worse off and depriving children of the benefits of high quality childcare.

 “We need to see our Executive back up and running as soon as possible to tackle this issue. In the short term, the childcare sector needs urgent financial support to offset the pressures they are facing. But longer-term we need to see progress on the much needed and long-overdue Early Learning and Childcare Strategy. Childcare is a vital part of our economic infrastructure and must be day one priority for a restored Executive – to deliver a programme of investment to support parents to access the childcare they need and to support providers to deliver it.”

 “In the meantime we would urge all parents to make sure they are receiving the financial support they are entitled to with their registered childcare costs. Most working parents are entitled to support through one of a number of schemes – Employers For Childcare’s Family Benefits Advice Service can help them work out what is best for them. Call our helpline on 028 9267 8200 for free, personalised advice.”