Change of DUP policy on childcare is significant win for Alliance, says Nicholl

Alliance Early Years and Childcare spokesperson Kate Nicholl MLA has cautiously welcomed an announcement from the Minster of Education on interim support for childcare. 

Kate Nicholl Childcare

The South Belfast MLA has highlighted the approach taken by the Minister, in developing a subsidy scheme as opposed to implementing a free hours model for childcare, as a significant change in policy from the DUP.

Speaking following the announcement from the Minister, Ms Nicholl said: “The proposals on childcare brought by the Minister are far from perfect, but the subsidy scheme represents a significant shift in DUP policy and shows the influence Alliance has had in the development of childcare support schemes. This is a positive first step. 

“Our childcare paper, Children First, sets out proposals for an Affordable Childcare Scheme that would operate through government payments to registered childcare providers and limit the costs paid by parents. This was very much inspired by the work of Employers for Childcare and I want to pay tribute to their work. 

“We have also engaged with officials within the Department of Education and the Minister around the perils of the free hours model, and worked hard to convince them on the benefits and value of it. It is positive to see that Alliance influence is at the fore of the proposals brought by the Minister today. 

“However, I am concerned there isn’t a significant enough focus on tackling poverty within these proposals. Research has highlighted how childcare can play a key role in addressing disadvantages, and I want to make sure that it’s prioritised by the Minister in the development of childcare support. 

“While many parents will be relieved to finally see movement on childcare support from the Minister, I want to be clear that pre-school is not childcare. 

“There remains significant work to do and I will continue to hold the Minister to account for the gaps in his proposals, ensuring that his proposals truly deliver for parents, the sector, and most crucially of all, our children.”