Chris Lyttle MLA said: “I welcome the creation of funding for school age childcare places in areas of social deprivation, it is long overdue. This announcement; however, says nothing of how the Government will help families not in areas of social disadvantage meet rising childcare cost and need, or how OFMDFM will work with established private sector providers to deliver a more urgent response to this need.
“Departmental officials have suggested that around £9.5million of the £15million for this initiative is actually money that they failed to spend from the previous budget period. It is disgraceful that OFMDFM only spent £2.5million out of a childcare budget of £12million for 2011-2015.
“Research shows there are around 230,000 children aged 4-14 in Northern Ireland but there are only 12,000 childcare places. It is time that OFMDFM gave this issue the focused attention it deserves.
“I remain concerned that OFMDFM is failing to adequately respond to the cost of childcare and the childcare crisis for families across Northern Ireland. This is one of the single biggest issues facing families as childcare is vital to early years development for children and access to education, training and employment for parents and guardians.
“Nor does it address the need for a media awareness campaign to highlight the financial assistance that is available to parents and that can save money for businesses in the form of childcare vouchers and tax credits, millions of pounds of which go unclaimed each year. Organisations such as Employers for Childcare and Early Years are both useful sources for parents seeking information around these issues.”