SDLP propose increase in pre-school childcare
The Belfast MLAs said that the move, a precursor to an increase to 30 hours, would have an economic multiplier effect as well as delivering greater workforce diversity.
Claire Hanna said: “Increasing the basic allowance of pre-school childcare has been a key SDLP proposal for some time. The cost of childcare is a huge burden on hard-pressed households the length and breadth of Northern Ireland with the average place consuming 45% of a median net weekly income, and there are long lasting social and educational benefits to early education.
“Very often skilled workers, women in particular, are unable to return to work due to limited childcare options. In 2016 people shouldn't have to choose between a fulfilling career and caring for their child - proper provision can allow them to do both. That’s why we’re proposing an initial increase in the basic allowance of free pre-school childcare from 12.5 hours to 20 hours with a view to further increasing it to 30 hours. This makes sense economically and socially. The government must adopt the plans with tailored legislation as soon as possible.
North Belfast MLA Nichola Mallon said:
“This is fundamentally an issue of workers’ rights. It is unacceptable that in 2016 so many of our skilled workers, most of them women, are pulled from the workforce because of the overwhelming cost of childcare.
“Our costed proposals would not only enhance the lives of families across the region, they would have a positive impact on the regional economy. Allowing one parent to re-enter the workforce and creating a new job in the childcare sector is an economic multiplier that will also contribute to workforce diversity.
“When 61% of parents say they have struggled with the cost of childcare and 56% say the costs have placed their family under pressure, it’s critical that we act to address that situation.”