The owner of a nursery in Enniskillen has called on more support for the childcare sector as she has seen some of her bills almost triple in a year.

Clare Maguire, of Burrendale Nursery on the Tempo Road, told how her heat and electric costs have risen from £9,000 to £25,000 in one year, while food bills have increased by £7,000.

With overheads like this, Clare had no choice but to increase fees at the nursery from the start of April by 14 per cent.

Clare felt she had to speak out to try and get some help for parents who are also feeling the burden of the high fees.

“What I’m having to do, I didn’t do lightly, but it was a needs must situation,” she explained.

Reacting to the Budget announcement last week in which free childcare was given to parents in England, Scotland and Wales – but not Northern Ireland – Clare this needs to be addressed.

“There’s no encouragement for people to go out to work, because the support is not there. I want my families to be supported like everywhere else is.

“We are part of the UK, and it’s not fair we should be treated differently.”

While the rest of the UK get free childcare, Northern Ireland families have to rely on tax-free credits, universal credit or vouchers, but Clare says it is not up to the standard of what families need.

“I’m in the Catch-22 [situation] in running a business. My parents [those who send their children here] have been very good, but they have had to adjust.

“There’s grandparents and whoever they can get [rely on] to cut their costs, and there is nothing I can do when things are rising.

“It’s not just myself. You are talking between £240 to £250 a week for five days’ care for one child.

“I have 34 staff, and I have everything else to pay on top of that. And everything has just gone up.”

Burrendale has the capacity to cater for more than 100 children a day, on top of the 34 staff employed.

It was a stark outlook for Clare and the nursery, and all those who work and go there if she did not raise her fees.

“If I hadn’t put on this increase, I could not have sustained it [the business]. I would not be here this time next year.

“I have to put something in place, or there would have been a whole lot of people out of work – and that’s me out of work.

“I’ve gone weeks without wages, and that’s not sustainable for anybody, whether it’s your own business or not.

“I feel I need to take a stand for my families [customers], and it’s not fair,” Clare said.

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