New Decade, New Approach deal welcome…but more work needed
The ‘New Decade, New Approach’ deal between the UK and Irish Governments and agreed by the Northern Ireland Executive, brought about the restoration of the Northern Ireland Assembly. The deal highlights areas that will be targeted to help improve the lives of citizens in Northern Ireland, including parents with dependent children and those who are in receipt of welfare benefits.
It identifies several immediate priorities in the areas of the economy, health, education and housing, which must be ready for Executive sign-off by the end of March 2020. This will build on the outcomes in the previous Programme for Government, but with a new focus on six priorities, one of which is childcare.
The Programme for Government will be underpinned by a range of key supporting strategies including, many of which will benefit children and families:
- Children and Young People’s
- Child Poverty.
Local housing needs are highlighted in the deal with the Stormont Executive told to “enable housing associations to continue building new social housing and intermediate housing”. This will mean the availability of affordable social housing should steadily increase over the coming years which should reduce the amount of claimants being forced into renting from the private sector.
The ‘Bedroom Tax’
The deal outlines that the “Executive will extend existing welfare mitigation measures beyond March 2020, when they are currently due to expire”. This is good news for claimants who receive a mitigation payment to cover the loss of Housing Benefit due to the Bedroom Tax. The Bedroom Tax reduces a claimant’s Housing Benefit by either 14% or 25% depending on how many extra bedrooms the property has. This affects claimants who rent from the Housing Executive and Housing Associations. It is important to note that if a claimant chooses to move into a property that has extra bedrooms then their mitigation payment will stop.
The affordability of childcare is recognised as a potential barrier to parents seeking to get back into the workforce or increase their hours of work. Equally, investment in our childcare infrastructure to ensure quality care is affordable and accessible is a key to unlocking this barrier.
The deal states that: “The Executive will publish a Childcare Strategy and identify resources to deliver extended, affordable and high quality provision of early education and care initiatives for families with children aged 3-4”.
Employers For Childcare welcomes the priority placed on childcare, and will seek to ensure that any developments in this area are informed by the needs of families, childcare providers and employers and can learn from experiences elsewhere in the UK. In particular, we will be highlighting the need for a Childcare Strategy supported by financial investment that will support families and children’s education and development. We will also continue to emphasise that all parents need greater support to ensure childcare is affordable, not just those with children aged 3-4.
The government is advertising that Universal Credit may be able to help if childcare costs are holding you back from starting work or taking up more work. Universal Credit may be the best option for your family, however it is very important that any claimant considering moving from their current benefits to Universal Credit seeks independent advice as this could leave you financially worse off.
Universal Credit claimants must pay for childcare up-front, provide receipts, and then wait to be reimbursed after the childcare has been provided. There can then be a long wait before support is paid to families.
Employers For Childcare’s Family Benefits Advice Service can explain your options and advise you on what form of support is best for your family, depending on your circumstances. Call Freephone 0800 028 3008.
Northern Ireland Childcare Survey 2020 now open for your views!
Employers For Childcare’s Northern Ireland Childcare Survey 2020 for parents and childcare providers is now open! With Government at Stormont back up and running, and childcare identified as a key priority in the ‘New Decade, New Approach’ deal, policy-makers need to hear your views on what is needed in terms of better support for childcare here and the provision of an affordable, accessible childcare infrastructure.
There are two surveys, one for parents and one for childcare providers. Each takes less than ten minutes to complete and your time is very much appreciated.
Parents: you’ll be in with a chance to win an overnight stay at the luxury Galgorm Resort & Spa in a two bedroom cottage, with breakfast and access to the Thermal Spa Village!
Click here to complete the Parent survey
Childcare providers: you’ll be in with a chance to win a £100 Boots voucher!
Click here to complete the Childcare provider survey
Now in its 11th year, the Northern Ireland Childcare Survey is a vital source of information for policy makers, so ensure your voice is heard in the campaign to ensure Northern Ireland has an accessible, high quality and affordable childcare infrastructure that meets the needs of children, parents and childcare providers.
For more information call the Family Benefits Advice Service
For more information on any of the information mentioned above please phone our Family Benefits Advice Service, Monday to Friday 8am to 5pm, on Freephone 0800 028 3008 or check out our online resources at www.employersforchildcare.org.