First meeting takes place of new All Party Group on Early Education and Childcare

The first meeting has taken place today (Thursday 13 August) of the new All Party Group on Early Education and Childcare, chaired by Alliance Party MLA Chris Lyttle. The Group, which previously existed as a Cross Party Working Group, aims to promote best practice policy and provision in the delivery of early education and childcare in Northern Ireland. The establishment of this Group is particularly timely, with childcare having come to the fore as a critical issue during the COVID-19 pandemic. MLAs from across the political spectrum have joined this important group. Alongside Chair Chris Lyttle, SDLP MLA Sinead McLaughlin is Vice-Chairperson, Sinn Féin MLA Catherine Kelly provides the role of Secretary and Independent MLA Claire Sugden is Treasurer. The full list of members is available here.

The meeting, which was attended by over 30 stakeholders from across the childcare and early education sectors, was addressed by Pauline Walmsley, CEO of Early Years – the organisation for young children, which is administering the £10.5 million recovery package for the childcare sector on behalf of the Department of Education. Pauline highlighted the vital role of this financial support in helping childcare settings to reopen – to ensure that childcare provision is available as far as possible for parents who need it – and to assist childcare providers to put in place the measures required to operate within the Department of Health COVID-19 guidance. Looking ahead, Pauline also shared some thoughts on how the sector could be supported in the coming months, when the COVID-19 pandemic will continue to present challenges to capacity and sustainability. Pauline’s presentation was followed by a constructive discussion on a wide range of key issues facing the sector, with robust actions and an initial forward work plan agreed by the group.

Speaking following the meeting, which took place remotely, Chair Chris Lyttle commented: “I was delighted to chair the first meeting of the new All Party Group on Early Education and Childcare today, which benefitted from the engagement of a wide cross-section of key stakeholder groups. The COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated just how vital our childcare sector is to our economy and to society more broadly. So while the recovery package that is currently being rolled out to support the sector to reopen and recover is welcome, more is needed and there was a call today for further, ongoing support and a clear demand for delivery of the Childcare Strategy. Childcare was identified as a priority in the New Decade, New Approach agreement earlier this year, and we need to see delivery on that commitment. I look forward to working with colleagues to ensure that this important All Party Group is a vehicle for driving policy and legislative development and promoting best practice.”  

The All Party Group on Early Education and Childcare looks forward to meeting on a regular basis and to working constructively with the Departments of Education and Health to ensure progress on these vital issues.

Further information on the All Party Group on Early Education and Childcare is available on the Northern Ireland Assembly website.

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