Kate was speaking ahead of addressing the March of the Mummies event at Belfast City Hall on Saturday (29th October).
Organised by the charity Pregnant Then Screwed, over 12,000 parents and carers are marching across the UK to call for government reforms on three key issues - universal childcare that is affordable and high quality, parental leave that is ring-fenced and properly paid, and flexible employment by default.
Recent figures from Employers for Childcare highlight that over 40% of the workforce in Northern Ireland are parents with dependent children and that, on average, full-time childcare costs amount to between £8,500-£15,000, with a third of families saying childcare costs more than their mortgage or rent.
Kate said: “The cost of childcare is crippling, and it’s one of the issues that is raised with me time and time again. People are worried about the costs. Parents and carers - primarily women - are reducing their hours or are being forced out of the labour market altogether, all of which will have a prolonged negative impact on the social, emotional, and educational development of our children.
“We urgently need a robust childcare strategy which would ensure people receive what they deserve - affordable, flexible, high-quality childcare which pays practitioners good wages and gives every child the best start in life. We need to stop seeing this issue as an individual family problem, but as key economic infrastructure which when properly invested in creates better educational, health, social and economic outcomes.
“Childcare should not cost more than your mortgage, and it should never be a reason why people don’t return to work, or why parents choose not to have another longed-for child.”
The March of the Mummies will meet at Belfast City Hall on the 29th October at 9:45am.