SDLP Foyle MLA Sinéad McLaughlin has described the findings in the latest Northern Ireland Childcare Survey as alarming.
Ms McLaughlin, Vice-Chairperson of the Assembly All Party Group on Early Education and Childcare, said childcare must be a top priority for the Executive to avoid the North facing a childcare crisis which could have a severe impact on parents’ ability to work, further adding to the pressures on the economy with many employers already struggling to recruit and retain staff.
She was speaking after the Employers for Childcare survey was published on Tuesday.
Almost a third of childcare providers who responded to the survey described their financial position as “struggling” or “distressed” meaning that they are focused on survival over the next year or, in some cases, at immediate risk of closure.
Ms McLaughlin, who is also Chair of the Assembly’s Committee for the Executive Office and the SDLP Spokesperson on Covid Recovery said:
“The findings of this latest research from Employers For Childcare is really alarming – our critical childcare sector is facing unprecedented challenges as it seeks to recover from the impact of Covid-19 and years of underinvestment. Without vital support, childcare providers are going to struggle to continue to provide their services, leaving parents without the childcare they need to work. At a time when employers are already finding it difficult to recruit staff and to rebuild their businesses in the wake of Covid-19, this additional pressure could have severe consequences for the whole economy.
“Childcare was identified as a key priority in the New Decade, New Approach agreement and we must see these commitments delivered upon urgently with the formation of a new Executive next year. If we are to rebuild the economy in the wake of Covid-19, we need to see significant investment in our childcare infrastructure – that will benefit employers, parents and children”.
Adding to Sinéad’s comments, Aoife Hamilton, Head of Charity Services at Employers For Childcare offered advice to parents:
“Although most working parents will be eligible for some financial support towards their childcare costs, a third of parents who responded to the survey told us they are not claiming any help with their childcare – so we would urge all parents, whatever their income level, to call our Family Benefits Advice Service on Freephone 0800 028 3008 and we can identify what is available for their family”.