All Party Group on Early Education and Childcare focuses on importance of childcare to the economy and maternal employment

The All Party Group on Early Education and Childcare, chaired by Alliance Party MLA Chris Lyttle, met remotely today (Thursday 12 November). The key theme of the meeting was the role affordable childcare can play in our economy, particularly in the recovery from Covid-19, with a focus on maternal employment and the gendered impact of Covid-19.

The All Party Group aims to promote best practice and policy in the delivery of early education and childcare. The important role of childcare has come to the fore over recent months, and access to affordable childcare has been recognised as essential both to our economic and societal recovery.

Today’s meeting was marked by constructive and meaningful engagement of over 40 stakeholders from across the childcare and early education sectors, elected representatives and departmental officials. The group heard three informative and engaging presentations, from:

  • Dr Corina Miller, Research Fellow, Administrative Data Research Centre NI (ADRC NI)
  • Tina McKenzie, Managing Director, Staffline Ireland and Policy Chair, FSB NI
  • Rachel Powell, Women’s Sector Lobbyist, Women’s Resource and Development Agency

All three presentations highlighted how accessible and affordable childcare is fundamental to facilitating women’s full and equal participation in both our economy and society. It was emphasised throughout the meeting that, without this provision, women do not have equal access to paid work, education and training, and employers do not have access to the full range of talent for their workforce. The gendered impact of Covid-19 was also demonstrated. It was noted that the childcare workforce can be predominantly female, and it is important to ensure that their vital work is recognised through decent pay and progression.

It was reiterated that the ‘New Decade, New Approach’ agreement highlighted a commitment to a Childcare Strategy and increased support for parents, yet work on this has yet to commence, to the frustration of attendees.

Several attendees referred to models of support and legal frameworks underpinning the delivery of high quality, affordable childcare elsewhere – in the UK, Republic of Ireland and the Scandinavian countries. Attendees suggested that learning could be incorporated to develop a legal framework and Childcare Strategy suited to the needs of children, parents, providers and employers in Northern Ireland.

Looking ahead

The All Party Group on Early Education and Childcare will continue to meet on a regular basis, working constructively with the Departments of Education and Health to ensure progress on these vital issues. It was agreed that the next meeting, which will focus particularly on the experience of childcare providers in delivering high quality childcare, will be scheduled for January 2021.

Employers For Childcare provides the Secretariat for the All Party Group on Early Education and Childcare – correspondence to or 028 9267 8200.