Minister’s interim childcare support must be urgent, ambitious, and lay foundations for transformation, says Nicholl

Following a meeting of the Assembly Education Committee, Alliance Early Years and Childcare spokesperson Kate Nicholl MLA has said that any interim support for childcare must be urgent, ambitious, and lay foundations for transformation.

Education Kate Nicholl Childcare Early Years

The Education Minister stated that he hoped to bring forward interim support measures for childcare shortly after Easter.

Ms Nicholl has welcomed this commitment from the Minister, but has expressed concerns at the lack of urgency from the Department.


The South Belfast MLA has said: “The lack of urgency from the Education Minister in developing immediate measures to support childcare providers and parents has been extremely disappointing so far. I welcome the commitment of the Minister to act soon, but it is frankly not fast enough, and I am concerned that it also won’t go far enough.


An Employers for Childcare survey published last week revealed that 73% of providers have either increased their fees to parents since the start of 2024, or plan to do so before the end of June. The same survey also revealed that 46% of childcare providers described their financial situation as ‘struggling’ or ‘distressed’.


These statistics highlight the sheer scale of this long-running crisis in childcare for both parents and providers, adding additional costs to an already unaffordable bill for parents and putting our whole childcare sector at risk of collapse. The Melted Parents survey results released on 22 March echoed these concerns ,with heart-breaking stories from parents and deep concerns about rising costs.


I also urged the Minister to not conflate the expansion of pre-school with delivering on childcare. While both elements will likely form part of the Early Learning and Childcare Strategy, it is imperative that he understands the difference between the standardisation of pre-school and the delivery of childcare support, something he accepted following my question on the issue.


The Minister must now live up to his commitment to prioritise the development of both interim support measures and the long-term transformation of childcare. Time and patience are fast running out and I will continue to push for the most ambitious and sustainable interim support measures.”