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Cost of childcare 'halts family plans'

The Hawthorns both work but are still struggling.

The cost of bringing up children in Northern Ireland is on the increase - with some families unable to have a second child because they can't pay for daycare.

Thursday, 22 November 2012
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New research has shown that 63% of parents - well over half - are struggling to pay for childcare, with the average full-time place costing £156 per week.

Even more jaw dropping, the Employers For Child Care survey also showed that the cost for two children can top £16,200.

Leanne and Peter Hawthorn both work.

But parenting comes at a hefty price and even with two salaries coming into the household, almost one is spent on care for their two-year-old Ruby.

"It's certainly a fair chunk of our wages every month," said Leanne.

It just makes me cross that something outside of our family is deciding our family's future

Leanne Hawthorn

"We don't live extravagantly - we have a normal house, we have normal cars but you really have to start watching the pennies very month, especially now coming into winter when you're going to have more heating, groceries all the rest. It's a significant chunk."

Peter added: "It's quite a large amount we're putting in every month to put Ruby into childcare but we've no other option, it's either that or one of us gives up work but work is too valuable to us and I think it's a good example for Ruby that the two of us work."

Almost 4,000 parents across NI were involved in the survey - and it seems the cost of childcare can vary based on where you live.

The most expensive place is Co Antrim, including Belfast, where a full-time nursery place can be at least £30 more than in Co Fermanagh.

Some of the costs are paid by the government but much is private and comes out of parents' pockets - but there is hope a new £12m initiative will help alleviate the financial pain.

Nora Smith from Employers For Child Care said more support is needed.

"Currently the government is very much pushing towards getting people into work and that is very much the agenda through welfare reform," she explained.

"But what's missing here, what is also the lynchpin, is access to childcare infrastructure to support more parents into work.

"If parents don't have access to childcare they are simply not able to work."

Meanwhile for Leanne and Peter, they say having another child at this stage is simply not an option as the cost of paying for Ruby's care is almost £700 a month.

If they had another child it would cost over £1,000.

"We've had to put off having a second because of the amount of money it would cost to put a second child through childcare," said Peter.

"It's just not a viable option for us so we'll have to wait until Ruby is at school full-time before we even think of having a second child.

Leanne added: "It should be down to us as parents to decide when we add to our family but to have to make that decision for financial reasons that are beyond our control is very frustrating."