Northern Ireland news

Belfast dad paying £1,600 in childcare says he has no hope Stormont will change in time to help his family

Parents in England are to get 30 hours of free childcare a month under the new budget, but no changes are in place for Northern Ireland.
Allan Preston

A BELFAST dad who pays a “crippling” £1,600 a month in childcare has said he has no hope that Stormont will make changes in time to help his family.

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt announced plans to offer 30 hours of free childcare a week for children in England aged between nine months and five-years-old. This is to be staggered over the next two years to ensure there is enough places, but without a Stormont Executive in place there are no plans to introduce the policy in Northern Ireland.

Wishing to be identified only as Dermot, the father of three young children said balancing the books was difficult even though he and his wife both work full time.

“It’s a struggle when you’re trying to work. Even if Stormont came back, it could be another two or three years before they would divert any money to childcare and working parents,” he said.

“That’s a big thing for me. If you’re working, I feel you’re forgotten about. Our costs are horrendous. My wife and I have worked hard in our careers, but the childcare is crippling to be honest. We’re paying north of £1,600 a month, and that’s not even for full time care. We also have a mortgage, horrendous energy bills and food. When you add all that into it, it’s just a perfect storm.”

He added: “It’s just not the way it should be. It has been like that too long, and I can’t see any hope of it changing before our children are up to a certain age.”


'We’re just working to pay for childcare'

Laura Cairns (30) from Belfast works full time as an emergency department nurse, and has four children aged two, eight, nine and 10.

She told The Irish News that 30 hours a week of free childcare would be life-changing.

“It would be amazing. I struggle to get child minding. I work 13 hour shifts and it takes away from the hours my partner can work as he has to be at home with the kids.

“We’re just working to pay for childcare, rather than actually making money to do things with the family. England seem to get everything before we do, even their nurses were able to get their payrise before us.”



Aoife Hamilton, head of charity services with Employers for Childcare, welcomed progress in the budget such as increased childcare support through Universal Credit, but said the gulf between parents in Northern Ireland and Britain was increasing.

“Extending free childcare for all children from nine months in England has the potential to make a huge difference to the lives of parents and children, and while the equivalent funding will be made available to Northern Ireland, there is no guarantee it will be allocated to childcare,” she said.

“In the absence of an executive, and ringfenced funding for childcare in Northern Ireland, this budget therefore only serves to widen the gap between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK in relation to financial support with childcare, as we fall further and further behind.

“Since (Wednesday) we have been hearing from many agitated parents who are frustrated that they will not see any benefit from this important announcement. We know the political parties in Northern Ireland have expressed their commitment to delivering on childcare. But we need to see promises now translated into policies that deliver pounds into the pockets of families, and investment in our critical childcare infrastructure."


The long-gestating emergency in our childcare sector has been compounded by the wider cost-of-living crisis


Northern Ireland news