Childcare costs ‘not on’

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SDLP Foyle MLA, Mark H Durkan, has hit out at those responsible for the failure to restore power-sharing in the North saying they have “failed to provide opportunity and a fair future” for families here.

The Foyle MLA’s comments follow the publication of the Employers for Children NI Childcare Cost Survey 2017, which reveals that the average cost of a full-time childcare place in the North is £168 per week.

That’s almost 40 per cent of the average household income.

Mr Durkan said: “A report by Employers for Childcare shows that for a huge number of households, the childcare bill is more than the mortgage or rent. It also reveals that increasingly more parents are having to access credit including pay day loans to cover the cost.

“Families here are struggling to make ends meet and with inflation through the roof more cuts to social security support and stagnant wages – the picture looks incredibly bleak.

“Even more concerning is that the failure to provide adequate childcare in the North is affecting the ability for parents to maintain working patterns. A staggering 63 per cent of households reported a change in working patterns in the last year, the vast majority because of the cost of childcare.”

Describing the situation in the North as dire, he said working families are being failed.

“The SDLP 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.

“While we pressed the DUP and Sinn Féin in the talks process on these issues – they were not interested.

“Providing free childcare not only gives children the best educational start in life, it gives parents the opportunity to remain or return to the workforce.

“Government is supposed to be about using political power to improve and change people’s lives.

“The abdication of political power here by the DUP and Sinn Féin – has left people feeling hopeless and that there is no opportunity here.

“It’s time for that to change, families deserve better,” said the SDLP MLA.