The COVID-19 pandemic has reinforced the vital importance of our childcare sector to our economy – childcare providers have played a critical role in caring for the children of key workers, enabling them to go to work across a wide range of sectors. But it is recognised that the childcare sector needs support to deliver a service that is sustainable, affordable and accessible for the benefit of parents, employers and society as a whole as we work towards economic recovery.
We therefore welcome the funding package announced today by Minister Murphy, and the Executive’s ongoing commitment to support for the childcare sector. Commenting on the announcement, Aoife Hamilton, Policy and Information Manager at Employers For Childcare said: “The £10.5 million announced today will provide further relief to childcare providers alongside the move this week to open up access to childcare to all parents, not only those on the ‘key worker’ list. This will be critical support to assist the broader childcare sector, whether in enabling settings to re-open, or supporting the recovery of those who have already done so as they put in place the measures needed to deliver safe, high quality childcare, such as the creation of ‘Play Pods’ and an enhanced cleaning regime.”
“At the same time, we know that providers will need to see detail in relation to how these funds will be allocated, and when applications for support can be made. We are calling for this information to be made available as soon as possible to assist providers in their planning. We are aware that a smaller allocation of funds than projected has, to date, been paid to providers through the initial COVID19 Childcare Support Scheme. While we anticipate that this amount will increase, we cannot overstate how important it is that we learn from this earlier experience to ensure this new financial package allows money to flow quickly and efficiently to those that need it, on the frontline of our vital childcare sector”.
“We would take this opportunity to also pay tribute to those providers who remained open to care for the children of key workers and vulnerable children throughout this health crisis. Many of these were childminders, welcoming children into their own homes and we have heard countless examples of the lifeline this has provided to our key workers. However, in line with the lifting of lockdown restrictions, we are pleased that as of this week, childcare may open to all children, not only those of key workers and we know this will be a huge benefit to parents, many of whom have struggled to combine work, childcare and home schooling commitments over the past 100 days”.
Aoife continued: “We have been working hard, with colleagues from across the sector, including Government departments and health trusts to ensure that childcare is accessible for those who need it, and that childcare providers are properly supported at this difficult time. There is a wealth of guidance available for parents, and for childcare providers on issues such as process for reopening, infection control, the use of PPE, COVID-19 testing and much more and we would signpost people to the Family Support NI website for more details on this”.
“Looking ahead, Employers For Childcare will continue to work to secure a comprehensive and fully costed Childcare Strategy that will ensure children, families, childcare providers and employers all benefit from longer term investment in our childcare sector, which is a vital part of our economic infrastructure”.