SDLP West Tyrone MLA Daniel McCrossan has said that families across the North deserve 30 hours of free childcare a week.
He was speaking after Education Minister Michelle McIlveen published plans to offer every child 22.5 hours of pre-school education per week the year before they start school.
Mr McCrossan said that progress is welcome but that the Minister’s proposals do not go far enough.
West Tyrone MLA Mr McCrossan said:
“The SDLP has consistently advocated for 30 hours of flexible free childcare a week for parents of young children. Indeed, the DUP also promised as much in its Assembly election manifesto, so it’s disappointing to see a proposal that lacks ambition brought forward by Education Minister Michelle McIlveen. While I’m glad to see some progress being made on this issue, we are already playing catch-up with the rest of these islands on this issue and any childcare strategy must include 30 hours of free childcare at a minimum.
“The minimal childcare support in place in the North is having a huge impact right across our society, particularly on women. The prohibitive cost of childcare has seen many mothers forced to give up their jobs as it simply doesn’t make sense to keep working, while those who do work face huge bills. This situation has never been more acute, with fewer and fewer families able to afford these costs due to cost of living emergency.
“It’s not just parents who benefit from childcare, it helps prepare children for school and introduces them to new environments, improving their socialising and integration skills. Given the massive need for childcare and the pressure facing families I believe we need to revisit this proposal and bring forward support for parents as soon as possible, the money exists to do it and I believe the political will is there."