Childcare Costs Reports: Why do we publish them?

Following numerous comments on social media about our Childcare Cost Survey, we thought we would provide some additional information about why and how we carry out this work as well as what we use it for.

Our mission at Employers For Childcare Charitable Group is to make it easier for parents to get in to work and to stay there. Childcare is critical to this, and the cost of that care is something that we carefully examine in our annual Childcare Cost Surveys. Those of you who are familiar with our lobbying work will know that we promote all types of childcare and regularly seek government intervention to support parents in being able to access flexible, affordable and good quality care for their children to enable them to enter the workplace if they wish to do so.

Not only that, but we provide a free, impartial and confidential advice and information service for parents across Northern Ireland which includes benefit entitlement checks, as well as support in finding childcare in their own area. This includes our Childcare Search facility on our website, which advertises the services of local childminders, and other childcare providers, free of charge.

The Childcare Cost Survey is the most extensive study of its kind, and is relied upon by various government bodies in formulating their policies and strategies in relation to the affordability of childcare. We distributed this survey both in hard copy and online through our own networks and those of other stakeholders over a period of approximately 12 weeks, from May 2014. This included all childcare providers who are registered on the Family Support NI website, as well as those who use childcare vouchers.

With over 5,000 respondents to our last survey, including 986 childcare providers and over 4,200 parents, we know that the data we collect is representative of the experiences of childcare provision across Northern Ireland. Using the information from childcare providers and parents we calculate the average cost of different forms of childcare, including childminders, day nurseries, breakfast and after school clubs. All full time costs are based on 50 hours per week of childcare. Our detailed findings are contained within the full report, where you will see that we calculate the average cost of 50 hours of childminding to be £167 per week. This figure is based on the information provided to us from childminders across Northern Ireland, and you will find the detailed breakdown of these costs by county in the full report.

You will also find numerous recommendations within both the report and our associated media coverage, all of which point to the need for greater financial support with the costs of childcare to protect the quality and flexibility of this service for families. In various radio interviews we pointed out that our research found that 97% of parents are happy with the quality of care their children are receiving, and that the increased costs of childcare provision are understandable in light of the current economic context of rising rates, utilities, etc.

We can’t ignore the fact that 58% of parents struggle with the costs of childcare, and 49% tell us that they are unsure as to whether they are getting all of the help to which they are entitled, which is why we will continue to raise the impact of these costs on local families. We are calling not for a reduction in prices, but for an increase in the availability of financial support with the cost of childcare for families.  Because we want to do everything we can to help parents of dependent children across Northern Ireland to get in to work, and to stay there.