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Working mum paying £2,640 a month for childcare may be forced to quit job

By Lisa Smyth

Published 14/09/2015

Co Tyrone social worker Sharon McKeown
Co Tyrone social worker Sharon McKeown

A working mother-of-five who pays more than £2,640 for childcare every month has revealed she is on the brink of giving up her job.

Sharon McKeown, a social worker from Ardboe in Co Tyrone, has said she may be forced to leave the job she loves because her wages do not cover the cost of her childcare.

She spent five years at university training to become a social worker but said she is close to giving it all up because of the crippling cost of childcare.

"I get up and get all the kids ready for the day and drop them off and that in itself feels like I've done a full day at work," she explained.

"Then I go on to work and knowing that I am actually paying to be there is very demoralising."

Mrs McKeown's comments come as the SDLP brings forward a motion to the Assembly calling for more financial help for parents wanting to work. MLAs are due to debate the issue today despite the ongoing crisis at Stormont.

Mrs McKeown added: "Two of my children are at school, one is in primary three and the other just started primary one there, so they go to afterschool.

"The others are three, two and one, so they go to creche, which is in the same place as the afterschool.

"It used to be that I could send my children to a registered child-minder but as the family has grown that is no longer an option as child-minders are limited to a certain number of children they can care for.

"I used to split the kids up and send them to different child-minders but that meant I was having to drop them off at different places which just wasn't practical.

"I love my job and I love getting out and meeting people but at the minute there doesn't really seem to be any other option but to give up."

Mrs McKeown continued: "My husband is an engineer and we've talked about him giving up work and me being the breadwinner but that isn't feasible."

It can cost as much as £47 a day for a young child to attend nursery.

The 2014 Employers for Childcare survey found that 46% of parents in Northern Ireland reduced their working hours, or left work altogether, due to a lack of affordable childcare.

The SDLP motion to be discussed has stated that "greater childcare provision would be a key catalyst in bolstering the economy, retaining a skilled workforce and improving the lives of working families".

The SDLP is calling for Northern Ireland to introduce the same scheme that is being rolled out in England which doubles free childcare available to all working parents of three and four-year-old children to 30 hours a week.

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