Rise in minimum wage without measures to support childcare providers is a recipe for disaster – Kate Nicholl MLA

The Alliance Party Early Years and Childcare spokesperson Kate Nicholl MLA has been speaking out about the lack of government assistance for childcare providers as the Chancellor announced an almost 10 percent increase in the national living wage in yesterday's Autumn Statement.

Kate Nicholl Childcare

An Employers for Childcare survey in 2021 found that 71 percent of childcare providers reported that they are either just breaking even or are making a loss. They are now required to implement this sharp increase in wages without any measures or mechanisms to support them in doing so.

"While any increase in the minimum wage is very welcome in many respects and early years staff are doing some of the most valuable work in our society, there are deeply troubling unintended consequences for a childcare sector that is under considerable pressure and that has been consistently underfunded.

"The imposition of this almost 10 percent increase in wages without sufficient planning, preparation and foresight from the government highlight the incompetence and lack of care with which this government operates. This wage increase without additional support or funding for providers is likely to have a very significant impact on the sector, households and our children.

“Where the Chancellor is expecting providers to find this additional funding without being forced to raise their prices for parents or reduce their offering to families is not clear. What is clear is that the Autumn Statement was a significant missed opportunity to address the soaring cost of childcare in Northern Ireland, a problem only exacerbated by lack of a local Assembly and Executive to deliver and fully fund the long overdue Childcare Strategy.

“As part of a wider set of proposals to reform childcare in Northern Ireland, the Alliance Party has been strongly advocating for improvements to the UK Government’s Tax-Free Childcare scheme including increasing the relief from 20 to 30 percent and increasing or removing the cap. These interventions could play a key role in reducing costs for parents, but they must be coupled with a wider plan to reform the childcare sector and deliver affordable and sustainable provision. 

"In early October, we launched our proposals for an Affordable Childcare Scheme to deliver a practical and child-centred solution to the current crisis, with reduced costs for parents and more support for childcare providers. We need to be ambitious for our children and families and Alliance are determined to deliver affordable, quality, flexible, child-centred care, with core-funding paid directly to providers as the best way to promote a system that’s flexible and available to all.”

View our full plan here.