‘Childcare for All’ call gets council backing

Councillor Sharon McAleer.
Councillor Sharon McAleer.

All parties in the Mid Ulster District Council unanimously supported a motion brought to Council to support the Childcare for All campaign and to support the provision of 30-hours free childcare for working parents similar to existing schemes elsewhere.

The Assembly previously backed the SDLP proposal for a radical approach to childcare provision which was subsequently hampered by the collapse of Stormont.

SDLP Councillor Sharon McAleer, who brought the motion to council, argued that in the intervening period the situation has worsened for many families.

She has called upon Council support to ensure that a restored Executive will prioritise this vital legislation in its Programme for Government.

Cllr McAleer said: “Burdensome childcare costs are creating barriers for working parents and their families. Some parents are being forced into debt to cover childcare costs. Some parents particularly women are more likely to reduce their hours or opt out of the workforce, impacting on their long term career prospects.

“Childcare comes at a cost and a cost which the providers fully deserve, my issue is not with the providers but with central Government.

“This relatively small universal provision could be potentially life-changing for many working parents- relieving the financial pressures of childcare and affording parents the opportunity to return to work. A reformed childcare system will also bring benefits to our economy, including diversifying the workforce and creating jobs in the childcare sector. The importance of childcare as an economic enabler cannot be overlooked.”

She went on: “Any restored Executive must prioritise legislation for an affordable, accessible and high-quality childcare system in its Programme for Government.

“I am grateful for the unanimous support council members have given to this motion to support the Childcare for all Charter, calling for a universal, child-centred childcare system to meet the needs of children, parents, childcare providers and communities.

“This is an important workers’ rights issue. In short, we are seeking to create a fairer society whereby no family is forced into spiralling debt to cover childcare costs.”