What is the Northern Ireland Childcare Cost Survey?

Why is the survey conducted?

Childcare provision in Northern Ireland falls far behind the structures which exist in the rest of the UK. Accessing childcare which is flexible, suitable and affordable can be a challenge for parents and the inability to arrange appropriate childcare can act as a barrier to work, as well as having other negative impacts.

The cost of childcare is arguably the biggest problem with childcare provision, yet no measure of childcare costs existed in Northern Ireland to track how prices were rising or the impact on parents. In 2010 we committed to carry out an annual Childcare Cost Survey for Northern Ireland. The 2016 survey will be the 7th in the series.

How are the results used?

Our findings provide the basis for much of our lobbying activities. They are used to intelligently lobby local politicians and policy makers on the need to better support parents at a government level.

In particular, we call for better financial support for parents to meet the cost of childcare and better awareness raising of existing support. We believe that childcare is an important social and economic issue which needs robust strategic direction and sustained investment.

What form does the survey take?

The survey is completed in two stages:

  1. Childcare Provider Survey: a survey is sent to all childcare providers in Northern Ireland. This survey allows us to calculate how much childcare costs across each type of childcare setting and in each county.
  2. Parent Survey: the parent survey, which is available electronically here, asks parents about their experiences of using and paying for childcare.

 What kind of information is collected?

The survey aims to discover how much childcare costs across Northern Ireland, for different types and in different areas. It also explores the experiences of parents using and paying for childcare across the region, for example discovering how much the average family is paying, whether they struggle with the costs and what impact childcare costs have on their families.

Key findings from the 2015 Survey include:

  • The average full-time childcare place costs £164 per week.
  • 61% of parents struggled with their childcare costs either throughout the year or at some point during it.
  • 24% of parents regularly used credit cards, loans from family and friends, or payday loans to meet their childcare bill.
  • For 44% of parents the cost of childcare influenced the pattern of hours worked (e.g. working compressed hours).
  • For 46% it influenced the total number of hours they worked (e.g. part time hours or leaving work altogether).
  • 51% of parents were unsure they were claiming all the family benefits and entitlements that are available.
  • 78% of parents used grandparents to provide informal childcare.

How can I take part?

Parents can complete the Northern Ireland Childcare Cost Survey online. Everyone who completes the survey will be entered into a draw to win a family stay at the Galgorm Resort and Spa.