TWO-thirds of parents in county Tyrone believe there is “insufficient” childcare in their area, a major new study has found.
According to Employers For Childcare, who commissioned the survey, this is having a “major impact” on their ability to work – and that was even before the Covid-19 pandemic.
More than 5,000 responses from parents and childcare providers across the North were received to the 11th Northern Ireland Childcare Survey, and a follow-up survey of the childcare challenges faced by parents due to Covid-19.
It found that the average cost of a full-time childcare place in Tyrone was £154 per week, below the Northern Ireland average of £169 per week.
Aoife Hamilton, head of Charity Services at Employers For Childcare, said, “However, two-thirds of parents in the county who responded to our survey reported that there is insufficient childcare in their area, which clearly has a major impact on their ability to work – and that was even before the impact of Covid-19.
“In particular, parents tell us there is a shortage of ‘wraparound’ care, (breakfast and after school clubs), so essential for those working, and often commuting longer distances.”
Ms Hamilton said the research also showed that three-quarters of parents were unable to access childcare for some or all of the time during the early months of the pandemic.
She said, “Where access to childcare was impacted, one-in-five parents had to use annual or unpaid leave to manage childcare, while over a quarter were working outside of ‘normal’ hours, to provide childcare. Some parents had no choice but to leave work altogether, which is clearly very worrying.”
Ms Hamilton said Employers For Childcare would continue to work with elected representatives and policy-makers to secure a fully-costed childcare strategy which delivered for parents, providers and the wider economy.
“Urgent action is needed from the government to invest in our childcare infrastructure, which is of critical importance to enable economic recovery, to nurture the development of our children and to support families at risk of poverty,” she added.
In comparison to Tyrone, County Armagh continues to have the highest average cost of a full-time childcare place at £174 per week, while County Fermanagh experiences the lowest average full-time childcare costs of £150 per week.
• 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 and other family benefits.
Posted: 12:33 pm December 2, 2020