Calls for urgent crisis funding for the childcare sector ahead of All Party Group meeting
The first meeting in 2022 of the All Party Group on Early Education and Childcare is taking place remotely on Thursday 13 January at 2pm to discuss the vital role of early education and childcare in giving our children and young people the best start in life. Ahead of the meeting of this important forum, there have been calls for urgent funding to address the crisis unfolding within the childcare sector due to Covid-19.
To date, the Department of Education has provided almost £40 million in funding to the childcare sector to alleviate pressures faced as a result of the pandemic. Most recently, a Childcare Temporary Closure Fund ran from 1 October to 31 December 2021 providing a vital financial contribution to providers as a result of the Covid-19 related closures. Further information can be found here.
Starting the new year, childcare providers and stakeholders from across the sector expressed their concern that, without further financial support to assist the sector, the outcome would be increases in fees for parents, who are also struggling, or settings having no choice but to close permanently. This would have a significant impact on parents’ ability to work, at a time when many sectors (including health and education) are already facing severe staff shortages.
The Chair of the All Party Group, Chris Lyttle MLA, has written to Ministers and issued a press release (available at the top right of this page) calling on the Northern Ireland Executive to reopen critical Covid-19 funding that was key in supporting the sector through the pandemic. Similarly, All Party Group Secretary Nicola Brogan, MLA published a statement urging that the Childcare Temporary Closure Fund would be extended to March 2022, while Treasurer Sinead McLaughlin MLA has highlighted the critical role of childcare in holding up our economy. This matter was also raised by several members of the All Party Group during the Northern Ireland Assembly Recall debate on keeping schools Covid-19 safe.
Responding to the Assembly Recall debate on Monday 10 January 2022, Education Minister Michelle McIlveen announced that the Department of Education is at an advanced stage in finalising the business case for an extension to the Childcare Temporary Closure Fund, details of which she hopes will be announced soon. Similarly, a bid has been made for further funding to enable the re-opening of the Childcare Sustainability Fund.
This is an important development, and Thursday’s meeting will provide an opportunity for the All Party Group to discuss these developments and any actions the group wishes to take forward to ensure the early education and childcare sector receives the support it needs to continue to function as a critical part of our economic and social infrastructure.
Employers For Childcare provides the Secretariat for the All Party Group on Early Education and Childcare – read more here. If you would like to attend meetings of the Group, or to be added to the mailing list to receive email updates on its work, email firstname.lastname@example.org for further information.