Call for free childcare allowance increase

Mark H Durkan
Mark H Durkan

SDLP MLA Mark H Durkan has said that increasing the basic allowance of free childcare available to working parents would have a “transformative effect” on the lives of children and their families.

The Foyle Assemblyman was speaking as he repeated the SDLP’s call for increasing the basic allowance from 12.5 hours to 20 hours, with a view to an increasing this to 30 hours, as a greater allowance comes into effect in England.

Mr Durkan said: “It’s a sad state of affairs when the Tories are providing more support for working families than we are here. But that’s exactly what’s happening as the basic childcare allowance rises in England.

“The SDLP has made repeated costed proposals for an increase in the basic allocation of free childcare for working parents from 12.5 hours to 20 hours with a view to increasing it further to 30 hours. Introducing that change would positively impact the lives of countless families in this constituency.”

Mr Durkan said that the latest information available shows that 63 per cent of families here struggle to afford childcare bills.

“Providing free childcare not only gives children the best educational start in life, it affords parents, and most often mothers, the opportunity to return to the workforce, augmenting our economy. It is a family and society enhancing proposal,” he said.

“This should be a flagship policy of power sharing institutions. Instead, political paralysis is leaving families and children behind.”

The NI Childcare Costs Survey found that 63 per cent of parents struggled to meet their childcare bill. Costings estimate that increasing the basic allowance of free childcare from 12.5 hours to 20 hours would cost £21m. A further increase to 30 hours would cost £42m, based on Department of Education figures. The SDLP has said that resource is available, however, through Barnett Consequentials from the British Treasury as a result of the decision to increase childcare in England.