O’Neill backs childcare strategy for Belfast

Alliance Councillor Sian O’Neill has said she’ll work closely with all involved to ensure Belfast creates a workable childcare strategy.

Speaking as she backed a proposal at the latest meeting of Belfast City Council, Councillor O’Neill alluding to the “frustrating” situation women find themselves in around this issue, adding they are yet another section of society being failed by the current lack of devolved government.

She added: “It feels like Groundhog Day when we say that yet another sector, yet another section of our society is being failed by our lack of government at present, but it’s true.

“A consultation on a draft childcare strategy was released in July 2015- almost 3 years ago. That draft consultation was overdue then – so what is it now? And whilst we wait for this languishing legislation, families, children and (disproportionally) women are being negatively impacted. Families everywhere are feeling increased pressure, with childcare costs increasingly being named as the largest household bill. It is clear that the childcare infrastructure in Northern Ireland is inadequate and not fit for purpose.

As a council we have the unique opportunity to lead the way on this and to attempt to fill the void left by a non-functioning Executive and work on developing a strong, family focused provision that positively contributes to the economic growth of our city.

I welcome a thorough and creative investigation into the many social and fiscal options that we have at our disposal in this city to tackle the issue of childcare as a means to improve our provisions for working parents, to support mothers who wish to be back into the workplace postpartum and to improve the quality of the provisions we have within our city boundaries.

“We need a fundamental rethink of the availability, accessibility, quality and purpose of the childcare initiatives that are currently in place. Any practical, tangible and sustainable options that we as a council can put in place should be explored.”

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