Politicians are back on the campaign trail – what are the key issues parents can raise on the doorstep?

Make your voice heard

The Northern Ireland Assembly elections take place on Thursday 2 March. This is an opportunity for parents to make their voices heard on the doorstep and at the ballot box on issues that impact on them, their families, the local economy and society as a whole.

Employers For Childcare’s Manifesto 2017 sets out the key issues that we believe should be prioritised. It is a tool for us to lobby politicians AND a tool for you to raise issues on the doorstep.

Every year we work with thousands of local parents through our charitable services, from providing advice and information to engaging through surveys and research. Our manifesto draws on what we have learnt about families, from families.

Find out what candidates think about these issues, share your views, and ask for their commitment

We want politicians to take these issues seriously and address them if they are elected to office. Make your voice heard and challenge your candidates to do the following:

  1. Urgently address the problems associated with childcare provision

Access to flexible and affordable childcare is a real concern for parents. In 2016 our annual Childcare Cost Survey highlighted that 63% of parents struggle to meet their childcare bill. Almost half of parents find it difficult to access flexible childcare that meets family needs. A draft Childcare Strategy was consulted on in 2015, but we don’t yet have a finalised strategy. Politicians must prioritise childcare as an issue requiring urgent attention.

Ask candidates:

  • How will you ensure the Childcare Strategy is published, implemented and funded as a matter of urgency?
  1. Raise awareness of the financial help available to families

Finances are tight and the financial support landscape is changing. It has never been more important that families can access information on the support they are entitled to. Employers For Childcare operates the Family Benefits Advice Service which provides parents with free advice on their entitlements. However, some parents may not be aware that this, and other services, are available.

Ask candidates:

  • How will you ensure parents are made aware of support available to help them with childcare costs?
  1. Encourage the use of Family Friendly Working Policies

While some employers offer flexibility, others offer little or no support for working parents. Our research highlights that 91% of parents find it difficult to combine work commitments with family responsibilities. Supporting employees achieve work-life balance can increase productivity, motivation and loyalty. Over a third of women participating in an Equality Commission NI investigation last year said they had been treated unfairly or disadvantaged at work as a result of pregnancy or taking maternity leave.

Ask candidates:

  • How will you encourage employers to implement family friendly working policies?
  • How will you help end maternity discrimination in Northern Ireland?
  1. Support the growth of Social Enterprise

In England, a Social Value Act requires public bodies to consider how the services they buy will improve economic, social and environmental wellbeing – not just are they the cheapest! In Northern Ireland, around £3 billion is spent each year purchasing public services and, rather than considering social and economic impact, tenders are awarded on price. This is an ineffective use of public money. We would the January 2017 commitment to introduce a local Social Value Bill implemented.

Ask candidates:

  • How will you support implementation of a Social Value Act in Northern Ireland?
  1. Tackle economic inactivity

An Economic Inactivity Strategy was launched in April 2015 but not fully implemented. It is meant to tackle Northern Ireland’s high rate of economic inactivity. It includes work with those who are economically inactive due to family commitments. Parents face significant challenges balancing work and family commitments. A lack of affordable, flexible or available childcare should not be a barrier to work.

Ask candidates:

  • Will you ensure money is available to implement the Economic Inactivity Strategy?

Download the full manifesto, which sets out our key asks for the next Assembly.