Draft Budget 2022-25 consultation response
In December 2021, Finance Minister Conor Murphy announced a public consultation on the Draft Budget 2022-25, setting out the Executive’s proposed spending plans for the next three years. This was to be the first multi-year budget after a series of annual budgets, intended to provide a more stable basis for the planning and delivery of public services.
However, the collapse of the Northern Ireland Executive in February 2022 meant that the consultation on the Draft Budget was paused, as it will no longer be possible to deliver the Budget in the absence of an Executive. Despite this, we are publishing our response to the Draft Budget 2022-25 consultation, so that this can help to inform the work of a new Executive in consulting on a revised multi-year Budget following the election. You can download our full response at the top right of this page.
Absence of funding for childcare
The Draft Budget 2022-25 fails to make any specific budget allocation to support the development and implementation of a new, long-overdue and much needed Childcare Strategy for Northern Ireland. This is a critical oversight, that will impact negatively on children, parents, childcare providers and employers – as well as hampering the Executive’s ability to deliver on its key priorities.
A new multi-year Budget, which needs to be a day one priority for a newly established Executive following the election, must recognise the Childcare Strategy as both critically important and urgent, and allocate resources accordingly. The absence of a funded Childcare Strategy over many years has resulted in challenges that have only been exacerbated by the pandemic, including:
- rising costs for both parents and providers
- families struggling to access and afford the childcare they need
- many providers finding it impossible to break even
- highly skilled, experienced and professional staff working for low pay and feeling undervalued as a sector.
Our response to the Draft Budget 2022-25 consultation therefore makes two specific, evidence-based recommendations:
- Allocate substantial multi-year funding for the development and implementation of a Childcare Strategy.
- Continue emergency support for the childcare sector beyond March 2022 as part of the long-term recovery from Covid-19 and as we await a Childcare Strategy.
We appreciate the significant budgetary pressures that will be faced by the Executive. However, short term ‘savings’ should not be at the expense of investments that will improve health and other societal outcomes across our population as a whole for years to come. The absence of investment in our childcare infrastructure is a glaring omission from the NI Executive Budget 2022-25.
With the new, and already long overdue, Childcare Strategy in development, identifying and allocating the necessary funding must be a day one priority for a new Northern Ireland Executive. We have a real opportunity to learn from the experience of the pandemic, and build on local evidence as well as learning from international developments, to invest in securing a world class Childcare Strategy.