‘Melted Parents’ march against high childcare costs

On Saturday 20 April, 1500 parents marched through Belfast demanding urgent action on childcare. The march was organised by Melted Parents NI, which began as an online platform sharing parents’ experiences of the childcare crisis.  With Stormont’s lack of action and bills higher than ever before, they decided it was time to take to the streets.

On Saturday 20 April, 1500 parents marched through Belfast demanding urgent action on childcare. The march was organised by Melted Parents NI, which began as an online platform sharing parents’ experiences of the childcare crisis.  With Stormont’s lack of action and bills higher than ever before, they decided it was time to take to the streets. 

Demanding that the Executive deliver urgent intervention that will impact the pockets of families hit with extortionate childcare bills, they link the need for childcare with wider societal and economic benefits. Anecdotes on their social media highlight teachers, nurses, social workers leaving their jobs because childcare is unaffordable. 

In 2022, the Minister for Education, reiterated the intention to move to 22.5 hours of funded pre-school education for 3-4 year olds during term time.  Yet currently, only 40% of places are 22.5 hours/week and 60% are for only 12.5 hours/week.  60% of families accessing a pre-school place said it made no difference to their overall childcare bill, while for 12% it actually ended up costing more. 

The average annual rate for one child in full-time childcare in Northern Ireland is £14,423 – an increase of more than 20% in less than a year. It is not surprising then that for 41% of families, childcare is their largest monthly outgoing ahead of their mortgage or rent.

88% of parents reported having changed their work arrangements due to the cost of childcare, including reducing their working hours, passing on promotions, not pursuing education and training, and even leaving work altogether. 

Parents from lower income households are less likely to be using childcare and more likely to stop working. 17% of parents from the lowest income households reported that they have stopped work due to the cost of childcare, compared to 1% from the highest income households. 

A lack of accessible and affordable childcare is a significant barrier to women’s participation in the workplace and denies women full control over their working lives. Women continue to provide a disproportionate level of unpaid childcare and are far more likely to be in part-time, insecure, and low-paid work.  In the UK, almost one in five mothers would increase their hours in work if they had access to adequate childcare. 

We need  a mass campaign including real action by our trade unions to fight a real campaign for flexible working, parental leave and childcare provision. We demand free, public, high quality childcare and early years provision, with staff on decent wages and working conditions.

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