We need more investment in childcare, not less says Egan, as future of Bright Start funding put at risk

Alliance education spokesperson Connie Egan MLA has been responding to news that funding for Bright Start - the Executive's programme for affordable and integrated childcare - is under threat.  

Connie Egan Childcare

The North Down MLA said: “We have been contacted by providers who have informed us that almost 50 settings in receipt of Bright Start funding could be forced to close under proposals to end funding at the end of June, which would have a devastating impact on children and parents.

“Bright Start is a key programme in delivering childcare across Northern Ireland. Parents, childcare providers, and early years stakeholders are being put in a precarious situation and face an uncertain future over these proposed cuts, which is a totally unacceptable situation. 

“It’s been evident for years that there has not been enough investment in childcare in Northern Ireland and we are lagging behind other parts of the UK. We urgently need to see greater investment in the sector, not less, in order to ensure families can access the childcare they require.

“This position is only exacerbated by the ongoing lack of both a Childcare Strategy and an Executive to implement it, something we in the Alliance party have repeatedly called for. A Childcare Strategy is now decades overdue and without a minister in place to take decisive action, we stand to fall behind even further and let more people slip between the cracks.

“Many parents in Northern Ireland have difficulties accessing or affording necessary childcare, impacting their ability to work. This has only been exacerbated by the cost of living crisis, meaning that now, more than ever, we are in dire need of affordable childcare.

“The sector and families need clarity on the future of the programmes and sustainable funding that will put the sector on a more stable footing going forward.

“Alliance believes that affordable childcare is a key economic driver and that we urgently need a restored Executive to prioritise and fund a Childcare Strategy and ensure Bright Start funding is protected for years to come.”