Executive must act quickly on childcare

Press Releases 12 Feb 2024

Childcare is essential economic infrastructure and the formation of a Childcare Advisory Group will help address short term needs

Speaking on the day that a motion on a high quality, affordable childcare strategy was debated in the Northern Ireland Assembly, Alan Lowry, NI Policy Chair from the Federation of Small Businesses, said:

“As the first item of Private Members’ Business in the restored Assembly, a motion on childcare is most welcome.

“FSB has been raising childcare as a key issue for several years, lobbying each of the parties to ensure it achieved the priority it demands, so it has grown massively in recent public debate. Effective childcare has two strands – the urgent short-term that we can do something about, and the longer term vision we still need to develop and implement.

“Childcare was rightly recognised and given attention and support during the pandemic, and our politicians deserve credit in that respect. Now, with an Executive back in place, it is time to move again with similar pace.

“Today, the Education Minister acknowledged the need to embrace an Executive-wide strategy but, crucially, also recognised the pressing conditions facing the childcare sector and the need to consider interim support measures. We welcome his commitment to doing so, because we know unavoidable childcare fee increases of up to 15% will come in the new financial year from April. There is a limited window of opportunity to determine if support measures can be taken.    

“We are pleased the Minister has undertaken to bring forward a paper on this topic to this week’s Executive meeting, but the only way officials and the Executive can determine what measures will really help is to engage urgently with those who use and deliver childcare.

“Whilst there is a childcare stakeholder forum, this is in place to discuss the long-term strategy; it is not purposed to address short-term needs. FSB is therefore calling on the Education Minister, with others, to create a Childcare Advisory Group to engage in the way that officials did so successfully during the pandemic.   

“Finally, given the limited window of opportunity to consider support measures, the Education Minister should set an early target date for decisions – within a short number of weeks - to allow officials sufficient time to consider options, whilst giving providers and parents the assurance of knowing that support measures will be considered and delivered within a clear timeframe.”