Motion on unaffordable childcare to be debated in Stormont

A motion on unaffordable childcare is to be debated in Stormont on Monday

A Sinn Féin motion on unaffordable childcare is to be debated in Stormont on Monday.

The motion is expected to highlight the lack of affordable childcare and the need for greater investment in the sector.

Northern Ireland is the only part of the UK with no free childcare provision and no formal childcare strategy.

Parents and childcare workers have told UTV they are struggling to cope.

The manager of one local nursery says some parents have been forced out of work as they are unable to meet childcare costs.

In England, parents benefit from childcare support measures which were expanded in March last year to include 30 hours of free provision for children under 5 from September 2025.

In Northern Ireland four and five year olds here receive 12.5 hours of free pre-school classes but childcare is not funded.

The newly formed Executive must now decide how much money goes into providing support for parents at a time when departments are struggling with increasing demands and budgetary constraints.

The issue of childcare has attracted cross-party support.

Alliance MLA and childcare spokesperson Kate Nicholl has called on the Minister of Education to urgently bring forward a plan for delivering childcare reform.

The South Belfast representative said: "It is simply unacceptable that childcare providers are being forced to make decisions between raising fees for parents, reducing days, or in some cases, closing altogether.

“With the Assembly and Executive now restored, it is clear that there is a cross-party shared ambition to deliver on childcare reform. 

"With day one now come and gone, we must move towards delivering on the commitments made."

Chief Executive of charity Employers for Childcare , Marie Marin said: "We know our politicians, across all parties, have expressed their commitment to delivering on childcare. But the time for talking is over.

"We now need to see promises translated into policies that put pounds into the pockets of families, and investment into our critical childcare infrastructure – and very quickly."

Monday's "High Quality Affordable Childcare" motion, proposes that the Assembly recognises that the price of childcare has become "unaffordable" for many and urges MLAs to recognise that sector requires "urgent and significant investment".

Speaking ahead of the affordable childcare debate, Sharon Malcolm the manager of the Belfast nursery Puddleducks said: "The return of the Assembly now allows for vital issues such as the challenges around childcare provision to be highlighted with focus and much greater attention to actual solutions.”

“This is a critical priority not just for parents by ensuring that families can meet the costs of childcare, but for the wider economy as well.”

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