SDLP Councillor Angela Mulholland has hit out at the Department of Education for not doing enough to support working families and childcare providers. Councillor Mulholland was speaking following the launch of the 9th Annual Northern Ireland Childcare Cost Report by Employers for Childcare.
Cllr Mulholland said:
“The findings of the report are staggering and point to an obligation for the two main parties to return to power-sharing and a functioning Assembly.
“The Employers for Childcare survey reveals that childcare is the biggest monthly bill faced by 35% of families here. The average cost of full-time childcare in Northern Ireland is £168 per week. That’s the equivalent of almost 40% of average household income.
“The survey also, perhaps unsurprisingly, reveals that a high proportion of mothers reported they had to reduce their working hours, or in many cases, leave the workforce altogether to care for their children.
“In a society where we aim to educate our daughters and encourage them to follow any career path and to fight for progression and equality within that path, these findings send out the wrong message.
“We need affordable childcare to be made available to women in Northern Ireland to make it easier for them to re-enter or join the workplace.
“At present, families in Northern Ireland are entitled to a miserly 12.5 hours of free childcare per week, a huge disparity compared to the 30 hours provided to families in England, and soon to be available in Wales.
“The SDLP has long called for affordable childcare that is ready, available and offers flexibility to all working parents.
“There is indescribable frustration at not being able to legislate for more free and flexible childcare here due to the ongoing spat between the DUP and Sinn Fein. Parents, employers and childcare providers are losing out.
“I have written to the Permanent Secretary of the Department of Education asking him to address these issues as a matter of urgency.”