Using our Childcare Search

Man and woman sitting side by side on a sofa. He is looking at a tablet and she is working on a laptop.

Family Support NI is the central government register of Registered and Approved Childcare Providers throughout Northern Ireland.

About Us

We work closely with the Early Years Teams within the Health and Social Care Trusts, who are responsible for registering and inspecting childcare providers. They inform us of newly registered or ceased childcare providers, and any changes to their details.

We also work with childcare providers to provide as much detail as possible on the service they provide (including current vacancy information), to try to make it as easy as possible for parents or carers to find suitable childcare to meet theirs and their children's needs.

Step 1: Find Childcare

To find childcare and/or information on childcare, select the Childcare logo on the homepage: This will take you into the Childcare section of the website, where you can access useful information related to childcare, and where you can use search options on the search bar at the top of the page, and/or the filters on the left of the page, to find suitable childcare providers in your area.  You can enter as much or as little information into our childcare search as necessary, the less information you enter, the wider the search will be.  If you enter more search criteria, you will get results which are very specific to what you are looking for, making it easier for you to narrow down childcare options which are relevant to your needs.  

Step 2: All Categories (optional)

If you know which type of childcare you are interested in finding, e.g. ‘Out of School’, select the relevant option on the drop down menu at ‘All Categories’.  If you are unsure, you do not have to select anything.  

Step 3: Keyword (optional)

If you are looking for something more specific you can add a ‘Keyword’ to your search (e.g. a childcare provider’s name, a village name, a specific need such as ‘allergy’ or ‘autism’, etc.) The Keyword picks up wording that is used within a Childcare Provider’s listing, so you can use it to search for anything which you feel is relevant to what you are looking for, e.g. if you are looking for a Parent and Toddler that runs on Wednesdays, enter ‘Wednesday’ as your keyword, and select ‘Parent and Toddler’ on the drop down under ‘All Categories’.  

Please note that you can use more than one Keyword if necessary, simply enter each keyword, with a space between, into the 'Keyword Search'.  E.g. If I wanted to see all the Parent and Toddler groups based in 'BT47' that run on a Wednesday, I would select 'Parent & Toddler' as my Category, then enter 'Wednesday BT47' to my Keyword Search.  

Step 4: Show Postcode Search (optional)

To find childcare providers that are local to you, select the drop-down for ‘Show Postcode Search’ and input either your Full Postcode, or your Outcode (the first part of your postcode) into the Postcode box. Then at 'Any Distance', select the distance that you wish your childcare provider to be located within that postcode area (located within 1, 5, 10, 20 or 30 miles of the postcode/outcode you have entered). Then select the ‘Search’ option. Search results will then be listed by distance from the postcode you entered, closest first.

N.B. Outcodes are mapped to a specific location within the area – if you want ALL results within the outcode area, enter the outcode (e.g. BT47) into the ‘Keyword Search’ rather than the postcode search.

Step 5: Search Results

Once you have entered your search criteria, and selected the ‘Search’ option, your search results will then be listed by relevance (or by distance, closest first, if you have used the postcode search).  You can change the order that your search results appear in by changing the 'Sort Results By' option, where you can also sort your results by Organisation Name (alphabetically) and Town (alphabetically).  

Step 6: Further Filters

You can further filter your search results using the options on the left of the screen (on a Desktop computer) or filters will appear at the top of the search results (on a Mobile Device).  

Filter By Offerings 

The filter by offerings allows you to select providers who have indicated they provide the service/s you are looking for. You can find childcare providers that have indicated they have:

  • Current Vacancies
  • Experience of Disability/Complex Needs
  • Offer School Pick Up/Drop Off
  • Accept Childcare Vouchers
  • Work Flexible Working Hours (evenings & weekends)
  • Offer Pre-School Funded Places (pre-school settings)
  • Registered for Tax-Free Childcare
  • Offer Breakfast Club (for school-aged children)

Filter by Area Covered

This filter allows you to select an area where you are looking for childcare - you should select the option which is most relevant to you. You don’t need to use this if you have used the postcode search, but you can use it instead of the postcode search where you want to search a larger area. Filtering with this option will let you see search results for childcare providers that have withheld their address details from their listing, whose details you would otherwise not see in a postcode search.    

Filter by Category

You can also filter by category. This allows you to search by more than one ‘type’ of childcare provider at once. Tick the categories you are interested in, e.g. you may want to search for Childminders and Day Nurseries, or to see the pre-school places available in your area, you may want to tick Pre-School Playgroup AND Statutory Nursery School/Unit.

Filter by Age Available to

This allows you to find childcare providers that cater for the age of your child. If your child is aged 9, and you tick this option, you will see search results for childcare providers that care for this age range, i.e. Out of Schools, Day Nurseries (that have Out of School places), Childminders, AHC’s, Summer Schemes and any Creches if relevant.  Please note, if you have selected a specific type of Childcare Provider in the ‘filter by category’, you will only see that type of provider in your search results that cares for the age range you have selected. You should only select the different ages of 2 or more children at any one time IF you wish to see childcare providers that cater for ALL of the selected ages only, i.e. selecting ages 2, 5 and 8 years together, will exclude childcare providers that cater for 0-4 years only, and those which cater for school age children only. Therefore you should only select more than one age at any one time if you are wishing for all of your children to be cared for by the same childcare provider.

Step 7: Search Complete

Once you have selected all of your relevant search criteria and filters, you will be left only with the childcare options that meet these criteria. You will see the names of the childcare providers and some basic contact details on the search results page/s.

If you want further information, click on the childcare provider’s name or the blue 'Details' button to view their full childcare listing. To come back out to the search results page select the ‘back to previous page’ option, or click the back arrow on your browser.

Once you have narrowed down your selection, you can contact childcare providers by the telephone number listed on their profile, or by using the ‘contact’ option where it is available (this is only available where we hold an email address for a childcare provider). The contact option will send an enquiry to the Childcare Provider through the Family Support NI website, allowing the childcare provider to then respond directly to you via the email address or other contact details you have provided on the contact form.

If you are unsure of what to ask a childcare provider or what to look for, you may find our article useful: Need Help Choosing Childcare?


There is a translate option on Family Support NI that you will see at the bottom of the page. This allows you to change the text on childcare profiles and search results to any of the languages listed there. This is a useful tool for families whose first language is not English, or front-line professionals that are working with minority ethnic families. You can print off translated results for families to take home, just use the ‘Print’ option at the top of the page when in an individual childcare profile.

Registered/Approved Childcare

You should be aware and reassured that all childcare providers listed on Family Support NI are registered or approved by Social Workers (based in Early Years Teams) in the relevant Health and Social Care Trust throughout Northern Ireland, with the exceptions of:

  • Parent and Toddler groups – are not required to be registered/approved with the Health and Social Care Trust as you do not leave your child unattended, (you stay with your child while they visit).  
  • Statutory Nursery Schools/Units – are not required to be registered/approved with the Health and Social Care Trust. Statutory Nursery Schools fall under the remit of the Department of Education, rather than the Department of Health, so they are managed by the Education Authority. The Education Authority is the statutory body in Northern Ireland which replaced the now dissolved Education and Library Boards. Nursery schools/units are inspected by the Education and Training Inspectorate Northern Ireland once in every three to five years.  

Remember to check!

Family Support NI ask childcare providers for additional information about their service, to make it easier for parents to find a childcare provider that can cater for their childcare needs.  

Registered and Approved childcare providers are required to meet ‘Minimum Standards’ of training/childcare qualifications in order to get and stay registered, but many childcare providers tell us about additional qualifications/training and experience that they have gained.  

Any childcare qualification/training or experience that is stated by the provider which is over and above the minimum standards, should be checked and verified by the parents to ensure that it is accurate and true, e.g. ask the childcare provider to view their certificates or qualifications, ask for references which show evidence of any experience they have outlined, etc.  Your childcare provider should be happy to show you evidence of their training and experience.  

By working closely with the Early Years Teams and the Childcare Providers directly, Family Support NI endeavour to keep childcare provider's information as accurate and up-to-date as possible.  We hope that in doing so, your search for childcare can be as stress-free as possible.  

Related Documents

Minimum Standards - Children's Version

Minimum Standards Full Version

Last Updated: 02/02/2021