The ‘New Decade, New Approach’ agreement identifies several immediate priorities which must be progressed by the end of March 2020. This will build on the outcomes in the previous Programme for Government, but with a new focus on six priorities, one of which is childcare.
The affordability of childcare is recognised as a barrier to parents seeking to get back into the workforce or increase their hours of work. Equally, greater investment in our childcare infrastructure is needed to ensure that quality care is affordable and accessible to unlock this barrier for parents. For more than 10 years, Employers For Childcare has been calling for a Childcare Strategy, supported by legislation, that is fully costed, with appropriate support for parents, and childcare providers. We are pleased to see childcare identified as an immediate priority in the agreement as Northern Ireland remains the only part of the UK without a Childcare Strategy and is falling further behind the other UK regions in terms of vital investment in our childcare sector.
While we welcome the commitment to the publication of a Childcare Strategy and the identification of resources to deliver extended, affordable and high-quality provision of early education and care initiatives for families with children aged three to four, we would encourage the Executive to look at childcare more broadly. Parents with children of all ages tell us through our annual Northern Ireland Childcare Survey of the struggles they face in accessing and affording childcare. We would also urge them to consider how this support will be delivered, and, most importantly, appropriately funded and we are working to inform progress on these issues through a new All-Party Working Group on Early Education and Childcare, set up by Chris Lyttle MLA and Claire Hanna MP at Stormont.
To help us ensure any developments are well informed and backed by research, we would ask all parents and childcare providers to complete this important annual survey, available on our website. We will use the findings to influence policy in this vital economic area.
To access the Childcare Survey or find out more about our policy and lobbying work, visit: