Politicians from across Fermanagh have accepted that childcare is a huge issue with many calling for a quicker implementation of a childcare strategy given the issues faced by providers and parents.

Two of those calling for changes are fathers of a young family, Councillor Eddie Roofe, Alliance, and Councillor Garbhan McPhillips, SDLP, who both have detailed the impact of childcare costs on their own families.

Councillor Roofe stated: “As a father of a three-year-old and a one-year-old, I am acutely aware that the cost of childcare in Northern Ireland is astronomical. Like most parents with children under 4, childcare has essentially become a second mortgage and is unsustainable for young families.”

Outlining what the Alliance party have done on the issue, he said: “To date, we are the only party to have published detailed proposals and are raising this at every opportunity. We have repeatedly asked for urgent support for parents.”

Describing childcare costs as “eye-watering”, SDLP Councillor Garbhan McPhillips said: “As someone with two young children who are currently in childcare I know all too well the eye-watering costs that parents face. My wife and I work full-time, and we have no choice but to pay these ever-increasing fees unless we are willing to give up work which would have its own negative impact on our family.

“Childcare providers do a great job, but the reality is these costs are becoming impossible for many families. There is a real sense of frustration amongst parents at the failure of the Executive to take any meaningful action to address childcare support and invest in the sector, which lags far behind the rest of these islands, despite paying much lip service to the issue.”

Sinn Féin MLA Aine Murphy said her party have been working on this issue conducting online surveys and speaking to parents as well as pressing for action from the Education Minister.

She said: “Sinn Féin have pressed the Education Minister to look at providing immediate, interim support for providers and families to provide some relief as we await the delivery of a childcare strategy.

“We have also urged him to prioritise finalising a childcare strategy that delivers high-quality care for our children, affordability for parents, sustainability for providers, and which values childcare workers.

Ulster Unionist MLA, Tom Elliott said: “Childcare should be centred on the child. It really needs to be built around the child.

“I would like to see this being one of the first policies that has them embedded throughout, because, if we are serious about tackling disadvantage, educational underachievement and barriers to a full life experience for all children, we need to ensure that key policies address the needs of the child.

“Plans for an early years childcare strategy has been considered for a long time, it's time the plans became reality."

Acknowledging that movement on the childcare strategy has “not moved as quickly as everyone would like”, Democratic Unionist MLA, Deborah Erskine said: “Everyone at Stormont is working in earnest to see the development of a childcare strategy. My DUP colleague, the Minister for Education is currently bidding for adequate funding to bring forward more support for families, as well as a realistic strategy to support working families.

“I know the costs of childcare are crippling but I recognise we also need to support the sector better too. Ensuring childcare is an attractive career choice is a key component in implementing any strategy. Without a workforce within childcare, a strategy isn’t worth the paper it’s written on.”