SDLP Economy Spokesperson Sinéad McLaughlin MLA has said that a new Childcare Strategy must be a day one priority of a new Executive.
It follows the MLA co-sponsoring an event in Stormont for the advocacy group Melted Parents NI, who presented the results of their parents’ survey showing that childcare in Northern Ireland is the most expensive in Europe.
The SDLP is supporting the call from Melted Parents NI for a childcare strategy to be placed on the agenda of the first meeting of any incoming Executive, along with a commitment that a timeframe for delivery will be published in the first 100 days of a new government here.
Ms McLaughlin said:
“The families driving the Melted Parents campaign have been tireless advocates for affordable and accessible childcare in Northern Ireland and have inspired many of us by their tenacity and sheer hard work in consistently raising this issue with those in power. I was pleased to co-sponsor an event in Stormont today to allow the campaigners to present the results of their parents’ survey, which gathered almost three thousand responses.
“These results lay bare the scale of the crisis facing parents in Northern Ireland, with over 80% of respondents saying that their childcare costs were higher than their mortgage and many outlining the devastating impact of their costs in heart-wrenching personal testimonies. It is clear from the many families who contributed to this survey that the immense costs of childcare are pushing huge numbers of hard-pressed parents - especially women - out of the workforce and acting as a handbrake on our economy.
“I launched a plan earlier this year that would have made a significant contribution to addressing this crisis in the short-term, but it can only be solved sustainably by a new Executive agreeing to treat this issue as a day one priority. The SDLP is backing the call from Melted Parents NI for a timeframe for delivery of a new strategy to be published in the first 100 days of a new government. If any Executive is formed, the SDLP Opposition will be holding it accountable for urgent action to support families and afford every child the best start in life through high-quality and accessible early education and childcare.”