Outcomes Delivery Plan 2018-19

Employers For Childcare has commented on the Outcomes Delivery Plan 2018-19, published by the Executive Office in June 2018.  The objective of the plan is to improve wellbeing for all by tackling disadvantage and driving economic growth.

We have a number of concerns about the actions identified to deliver the Outcomes in the Plan, particularly relating to important actions around the provision of childcare, and the social economy, which are not included.

Read our full commentary on the Plan below:

Response to the Outcomes Delivery Plan 2018-19 published by the Executive Office

Northern Ireland’s first outcomes based Programme for Government was consulted on in 2016. In the absence of an Executive working to an agreed Programme for Government, the Executive Office has published an Outcomes Delivery Plan for 2018-19. The objective of the plan is to improve wellbeing for all by tackling disadvantage and driving economic growth.

The document recognises that the plan is necessarily constrained by the absence of ministers, but is intended to provide a framework for the delivery of public services in line with the budget allocated. It is anticipated that there will be mid-year and end-year progress reports published to ensure accountability.

Employers For Childcare responded to the original consultation on the draft Programme for Government and welcomes the publication of this plan, which sets out a range of important actions.  However, we have a number of concerns about actions and areas that are not included.

A robust childcare infrastructure

In particular, it is very disappointing that the plan does not include any action designed to facilitate access to childcare, nor is there any reference to the critical role that affordable, accessible and high quality childcare plays in supporting the delivery of several of the outcomes.

The plan needs to include a specific action to deliver a robust, costed Childcare Strategy that is designed and funded to deliver against the following outcomes:

  • Providing the infrastructure needed to support parents with dependent children into work, and helping them to progress in the workplace (outcomes 1, 5 and 6)
  • Supporting the development of a strong, inclusive economy (outcome 1)
  • Giving our children and young people the best start in life, enhancing their educational outcomes and development (outcome 12)
  • Helping to reduce levels of in-work poverty and child poverty (outcomes 3, 4, 8, 10 and 12)
  • Enhancing equality through addressing the gender pay gap (outcome 3).

Outcome 12 includes an action to provide, for every child whose parents want it, access to a funded place in the pre-school education programme in the child’s immediate pre-school year. This can be important in providing a foundation for improved educational attainment and life-long learning.  As an action, this is not sufficient in that funded pre-school childcare provision, as it currently stands, is typically inflexible, it is not designed to meet the childcare needs of a family alongside the educational needs of a child. The action does not commit to ensuring that places are suitable for each child and their family.

A truly outcomes based approach to securing wellbeing for all, tackling disadvantage and driving economic growth in Northern Ireland would recognise the vital and integrated nature of childcare and education, both in supporting access to parental employment and education and in delivering educational and social development opportunities to children from an early age.

Social economy

Employers For Childcare, as a social enterprise, is also concerned with the growth of a vibrant social economy and delivery of social value alongside economic growth and development. Outcome 1 should provide an opportunity to encourage the growth of the social enterprise sector, and recognise its role in job creation and innovation, contributing firstly to the achievement of a strong economy, but secondly to addressing social issues highlighted through other outcomes. An important action would be the development of legislation around a social value act for Northern Ireland.