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Arlene Foster: Childcare providers are at breaking point

Millions of pounds earmarked to help the struggling sector are not being released quickly enough, the First Minister added.

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Northern Ireland’s First Minister Arlene Foster (Kelvin Boyes/Press Eye/PA)

Northern Ireland’s First Minister Arlene Foster (Kelvin Boyes/Press Eye/PA)

Northern Ireland’s First Minister Arlene Foster (Kelvin Boyes/Press Eye/PA)

Some childcare providers in Northern Ireland are at “breaking point”, Arlene Foster warned.

Millions of pounds earmarked to help the struggling sector are not being released quickly enough, the First Minister added.

Mrs Foster said parents cannot be expected to return to work and productivity without the service.

A number have said that they were at breaking pointArlene Foster

The DUP leader added: “I have been concerned that that money has not been getting out to the childcare sector as quickly as it should have been.

“There needs to be a look at that to try and get that money out in a faster fashion.”

A total of £12 million has been set aside by Stormont for childcare support grants as part of its response to the coronavirus pandemic.

The First Minister said care providers from her Fermanagh and South Tyrone constituency had contacted her.

“A number have said that they were at breaking point.

“I hope that will be sorted out very soon.

“We know how fundamental and strategic it is to the revival of the economy here.”

From July 1 all parents are allowed to organise childcare after Stormont relaxed rules restricting services to the offspring of key workers.

The hospitality, hair and beauty sectors reopen within days and more staff will need to make arrangements for their children.

Stormont has advised daycare centres to organise youngsters in “play pods”, with the same members of staff assigned each day, to minimise the risk of spreading infection.

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Michelle O’Neill said women risked being disproportionately affected by lack of childcare (Kelvin Boyes/Press Eye/PA)

Michelle O’Neill said women risked being disproportionately affected by lack of childcare (Kelvin Boyes/Press Eye/PA)

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Michelle O’Neill said women risked being disproportionately affected by lack of childcare (Kelvin Boyes/Press Eye/PA)

Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill told the Assembly’s Executive Office Committee women risked being disproportionately affected by the childcare “crisis”.

“We need to focus a lot of effort on that in the time ahead.”

PA