Childcare costs in Co Armagh are the highest in Northern Ireland, prompting an Upper Bann MLA to brand the situation ‘unacceptable’.
DUP MLA Jonathan Buckley spoke of his disappointment at the lack of progress in Northern Ireland to produce a childcare strategy.
He was speaking after the Northern Ireland Childcare Survey 2019, commissioned by Employers for Childcare, revealed that Childcare costs in Co Armagh were the highest in Northern Ireland.
The survey revealed the average cost of full time childcare as £8,632 per year, with County Armagh the highest average cost in NI for the fourth consecutive year with an overall average of £173 per week. Employers For Childcare reports that two in five households in NI are using means other than their income – such as savings, credit cards, even payday loans – to cover the cost of their childcare bill. In lone parent households, this rises to 51%.
The charity said: “It is particularly concerning as we look ahead to the start of the school summer break next week, as our research shows that the cost of a week’s holiday childcare has soared by £52 over the last ten years, and now costs £145 on average.”
The Upper Bann MLA said: “ It is unacceptable that Northern Ireland is the only part of the UK without a Childcare strategy.
“This causes me great concern there is continued frustration at the lack of support in Northern Ireland compared to other regions in the UK such as England where up to 30 hour free childcare can be made available. I believe working families deserve better.
“I know many young parents who have been in contact with me and are rightly worried about the increase in childcare costs and want to continue to work and contribute financially to their home, having worked hard to build on careers that they have invested heavily in.
“Childcare costs should not be a barrier for these hard working mothers and fathers,” he said.
“I want to support our hardworking families.
“We must invest in our childcare sector to provide help and assistance as a priority.”
Parents and carers can call Employers For Childcare’s Family Benefits Advice Service on Freephone 0800 028 3008 for free, impartial and confidential advice on the financial support available towards the cost of childcare.