Sinn Féin demand strategy to boost childcare provision
Sinn Féin MLA Jennifer McCann has demanded the development of a strategy to boost the availability of affordable and accessible childcare provision within the north of Ireland. Speaking before a Sinn Féin motion on this issue to be debated in the Assembly on Monday the 20th of April Ms McCann said:
“In 2002 the European Council set out targets for childcare provision stating that by 2010 member states should provide childcare to at least 90% of children between 3 years old and the school age and at least 33% of children under 3 years. It is very clear that this target will not be met locally.
"The provision of quality affordable childcare is the responsibility of a number of government departments and we need a cross departmental approach if we are serious about delivering a strategy that will have lasting benefits to families, communities and the economy as a whole.
"There are several determining factors inhibiting the adequate delivery of childcare provision. There is not adequate investment into the sector to enable any significant growth in childcare places.
"On top of this childcare costs within the north of Ireland are subsidised by only 25% compared to the rest of Europe where as much as 75 % of childcare costs are paid by governments. On average families are having to pay £8,000 an year for childcare which impacts more severely on working class and rural communities who may find it hard to pay such sums. This is wholly unacceptable and discriminatory by today’s standards.
"The lack of adequate childcare places also results in barriers for parents, but in particular women, who want to return to education, training or employment. Short term funding of childcare positions and providers disadvantages those who wish to take long term employment opportunities.
"The Executive needs to send a clear message that they are serious in tackling the lack of childcare provision both in rural and urban communities by putting a clear, cross departmental, childcare strategy in place.
“To secure a long term childcare strategy, to ensure the sustainability of childcare provision and allow equal access for parents wishing to access employment or training opportunities, is the clearly the next step.”
The Sinn Féin motion reads as follows:
That this Assembly expresses its concern at the lack of availability of affordable, quality childcare; and calls on the Executive to implement a coherent and properly resourced childcare strategy.