Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland needs its own model for affordable childcare, Assembly told

MLAs were told that the current financial burden means that many families are having to use credit cards and loans to pay for childcare.

The Stormont Assembly is debating the need for a childcare strategy in NI
The Government’s childcare reforms The Stormont Assembly is debating the need for a childcare strategy in NI (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

Northern Ireland needs its own bespoke model to provide affordable childcare for parents and families, the Assembly has heard.

MLAs were told that the current financial burden of childcare means that many families are having to use credit cards and loans, while some providers are closing their doors.

The Assembly is debating a Sinn Fein motion calling for the new Stormont Executive to work collectively to deliver a strategy which makes high quality childcare affordable for all families a priority.

Currently, there is no scheme in place for free childcare in Northern Ireland, unlike in England where 30 hours of free childcare a week is offered.



Sinn Fein MLA Nicola Brogan said progress on a childcare strategy in NI had stalled
Christopher Stalford death Sinn Fein MLA Nicola Brogan said progress on a childcare strategy in NI had stalled (Liam McBurney/PA)

Opening the debate, Sinn Fein MLA Nicola Brogan said progress on adopting a childcare strategy had stalled while the powersharing Executive did not sit for two years.

She said: “This motion calls on the Executive to work collectively to deliver a strategy which makes high quality affordable childcare for all families a priority.

“It is clear that childcare is a massive issue for people across the north right now.

“Very often we hear about the rising cost of childcare and the impact this has on parents and families who are already struggling with the cost of living.

“We talk about the very real and concerning pressures childcare providers are facing right now in trying to keep their doors open with increased operating costs and difficulties in recruiting and retaining staff.”

Ms Brogan said the cost of childcare was having a “crippling effect” on families in Northern Ireland.

She added: “According to Employers for Childcare’s most recent survey in 2023, the current average cost for a full-time childcare place is £10,036 a year.

“For 41% of families childcare is the highest monthly outgoing ahead of mortgage or rental costs and 56% of families are having to use means other than their income to pay for childcare including savings, credit cards and loans.

“These costs are simply unaffordable for families.”

Ms Brogan, the chair of the All Party Group on Early Education and Childcare, said the group had examined the English model.

“Whilst this sounds good in practice it is not meeting the needs of parents, providers or children.

“We need our own model.”

The Sinn Fein MLA also said that the cost of childcare was a barrier to women entering employment.