Sunday 19 August 2018 10:28:22 PM

Too Many Of Our Children Living In Poverty Says McGrath
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Too Many Of Our Children Living In Poverty Says McGrath.

SDLP MLA Colin McGrath said: “A recent report by Save the Children has illustrated our education system’s failure in helping young children living in poverty.”

Commenting the SDLP’s Education Spokesperson said, “With nearly a quarter of all children in the North living in poverty, it is very concerning that Save the Children’s report shows that one third (34%) of five-year-old children growing up in poverty are in the lowest performing group, compared to one fifth (22%) of their peers.

South Down MLA Colin McGrath… concerned about children’s poverty and the scrapping of the Childcare Voucher Scheme.

The overwhelming evidence shows that children who begin school life behind their classmates struggle to catch up. That’s why the SDLP have campaigned to introduce an Early Years Bill for Northern Ireland to provide a clear legislative framework for the co-ordination, funding, development and delivery of early year’s education. We need a functioning local Executive to enact this.

School should be a place of equal opportunity and every child, regardless of their parent’s income, should be given the maximum opportunity to learn. More needs to be done to ensure children from disadvantaged backgrounds aren’t left behind and let down by the system simply as a matter of where they are born.”

And there’s more on children’s issues!

McGrath Calls For Protection Of Childcare Voucher Scheme

Pressures on families and children are being further exacerbated says Colin McGrath MLA who has warned that government plans to end the Childcare Voucher Scheme to new entrants in April 2018 would be disastrous for parents.

The South Down MLA said: “I have heard from many parents in my constituency who are exasperated at the crippling cost of childcare which continues to rise. It is essential we keep Childcare Vouchers open alongside the new Tax-Free Childcare scheme so parents have a comprehensive package of support and choice when it comes to paying for childcare.

“The government plans to table this new legislation soon but as we have seen, this Tory-DUP coalition is weak and can be defeated. Therefore, we need as many MP’s as possible to stand up and vote against this upcoming bill in Parliament. It angers me to think that this awful act could be passed by a very slim margin, and the hardworking mums and dads in South Down will have no sitting MP fighting on their behalf.

“The SDLP have called in successive manifestoes and as part of Programme for Government negotiations for an increase in the number of free childcare houses for working families to ease this burden. Hopefully with a functioning Executive we can achieve this.

“I have been contacted by the charity ‘Employers For Childcare’ who informed me that in a third of homes here the childcare bill is the biggest family outgoing, exceeding mortgage/rent payments. So why narrow the already limited options for financial assistance that are available? The government has an obligation to support working families rather than penalise them by closing a scheme which has been proven to work and saves households up to £1800 a year.

“The Childcare Voucher scheme isn’t just beneficial for parents. Employers in NI saved nearly £4 million on National Insurance contributions through offering these Vouchers, money they can invest back into our local economy. This comes at a time when businesses are struggling with the uncertainty of Brexit and no functioning Assembly. If this scheme is ended, that money could be lost and our local economy will take the hit.

“While the people of South Down won’t have an MP to vote on this bill, we can still try and influence the government by signing the online petition to ‘Keep Childcare Vouchers Open Beyond April 2018′,” said Colin McGrath.