Childcare cash 'a start - but hardly enough'

Raissa Balduino
Mother-of-one Raissa Balduino said the package will be "a great help" but more needs to be done. [BBC]

Some parents in Northern Ireland will get help with their childcare bills due to a subsidy scheme introduced in a new £25m financial package.

Education Minister Paul Givan announced the funding for early learning and childcare, hailing its potential to have a "lasting impact".

It will also entitle parents to 22.5 hours of pre-school education per week for their children.

One parent says the scheme is "a start" but more work needs to be done.

Raissa Balduino, who spends twice as much on full-time childcare for her two-year old daughter as she does on her mortgage, said the move was "hardly enough".

Campaign group Melted Parents NI said the announcement "will make a real difference" to those with young children but added it "won't solve everyone's problems".

The changes are expected to be in place by September.

What childcare help can parents get?

Part of the package includes a 15% childcare subsidy on top of the 20% granted by the UK government.

"For a family where there are two children in full-time childcare, that will equate to an £8,000 saving," said Paul Givan.

Mr Givan previously said up to £400m would be needed to fully fund a new early learning and childcare strategy for Northern Ireland.

The executive set aside £25m for childcare in the budget - about 6% of the estimated need.

Mr Givan said this latest investment shows the executive remains committed to making support for young children and their families a top priority, despite "an extremely challenging budget position".

Ms Balduino said in her household: "We don't have any room for accidents, unexpected spending or holidays. Everything goes to childcare."

With no family nearby to help, she says it is the only option for her and her husband.

"We are lucky that we can afford it but we can't save any money at the end of the month because there is nothing left," she said.

Raissa said the package will be "a great help" but more work needs to be done.

"It's not going to help all parents, unfortunately, but it shows that the executive is willing to work with parents to develop something that will work for everyone," she added.

"It's a good win. It's a start, but it's hardly enough."

Children play with blocks at a classroom desk
A campaign group said parents will feel "a real difference" thanks to the new [Getty Images]

Melted Parents NI said it was "celebrating this big win" but acknowledged the scheme "is limited to those in the tax-free childcare system".

"This is an interim measure and most importantly, a start."

Employers for Childcare welcomed the scheme as "a key first step towards a long-term Early Learning and Childcare Strategy".

Its chief executive Marie Marin said the announcement is "a much needed tangible action to help tackle the affordability crisis which is facing families and the childcare sector".

Parents in England are now entitled to free childcare hours from when their child is nine months old, but critics of that scheme have said there are not enough childcare places.