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Lack of affordable childcare is driving the gender pay gap – Clare Bailey MLA

Tuesday May 1 2018

Green Party MLA Clare Bailey says the lack of affordable childcare in Northern Ireland is driving the gender pay gap and preventing women from being able to enter paid work, education and training.

The South Belfast MLA said it is absolutely disgraceful that Northern Ireland is still the only region of the UK with no statutory duty to address childcare, resulting in a growing gap in the cost and provision to hard-pressed families.

Hosting the launch of the Childcare for All campaign at the Long Gallery in Stormont today, she said accessible, affordable and flexible childcare is one of the most fundamental issues of inequality facing us today.

“If we are to tackle inequality, then how we treat our youngest members of society, along with tackling gender inequality for working women, are two very good places to start,” she said.

“Childcare is not a luxury but a necessity for most parents because many families require two wages to get by financially.  For single parents, childcare is essential in order to hold down a job at the same time as caring for your family.

“In October 2017 our Commissioner for Children and Young People highlighted that, of 444,000 children in Northern Ireland, 103,400 live in poverty and the majority of these children, 61%, live in households where at least one parent is working.

“That is almost 1 in every 4 children here living in a family which struggles to provide for their basic needs – warm, adequate homes, nutritious food, appropriate clothing and to pay for childcare.

“It is essential that the childcare infrastructure in Northern Ireland is one that supports parents to access and stay in work or training and, once they are there, helps to ensure that work pays for families and childcare workers and helps to lift all out of poverty.

“While our provision is extremely expensive and woefully inadequate, families in GB have seen increases in the number of free childcare hours available, with many children now entitled to 30 hours per week.

“Provision in place in other parts of the UK are by no means perfect but it is absolutely disgraceful that families in NI have to sit back and watch the gap growing as we face year after year of increasing childcare costs and no action from government to help more families be able to access it. In fact, coupled with welfare reform measures like the two-child cap the situation is now critical for many low-income parents and their children.

“We need to build a campaign of public and political support and I hope this is the beginning of a successful campaign that puts children and families and workers first,” the Green Party MLA said.