Report on Childcare Strategic Insight Programme published

In Autumn 2021, the Department of Education in Northern Ireland commissioned the Department of Finance (DoF) Innovation Lab to deliver a Strategic Insight Programme to inform the development of the new Executive Childcare Strategy. The aim of the programme was to provide strategic direction and to inform the design and implementation of childcare policy.

Over a series of virtual events, participants – including parents, childcare providers, MLAs and sectoral stakeholders – were facilitated to share their views on issues, challenges and solutions in relation to childcare in Northern Ireland. The culminated in a two day virtual ‘Childcare Strategic Insight Lab’ which Employers For Childcare participated in (a full list of participants is available in the report).

A report of the Strategic Insight Programme has now been published on the Department of Education’s website. The report sets out the background to why the Programme was planned, and gives an overview of the innovation lab process that was used. As well as summarising some of the key findings from the process, the report also documents the full range of ideas and views recorded at the Strategic Insight Lab.

Summary of findings

Across the two days of the Childcare Strategic Insight Lab, 147 ideas and views were recorded that will help to inform the strategic design and implementation of childcare policy. The ideas and views were categorised into eight overarching themes:

  • Affordability and sustainability
  • Scope of strategy
  • Accessibility and inclusivity
  • Economic and societal
  • Childcare workforce
  • Child centred services
  • Leadership / political will

Within these themes, ideas that were discussed ranged from options for a scheme to ensure the affordability of childcare for parents, through the need for a statutory underpinning that recognises childcare as core public infrastructure, to the importance of properly valuing and investing in the childcare sector and its workforce. The needs of all families were considered, including those who have a child with a disability, newcomer families or those from an ethnic minority background, families living in rural areas, and those with children of all ages. There was also reflection on the importance of maintaining a focus on quality of provision.

Next steps

This report will help to inform the work of the team within the Department of Education who are drafting the new Childcare Strategy and identifying costed options for consideration by the Executive by March 2023.

It will add to information gathered through the ongoing independent Review of Childcare Services in Northern Ireland as well as input from a new Stakeholder Engagement Forum, and should build on the wealth of already existing evidence such as through the Northern Ireland Childcare Survey series, and from a wide range of stakeholders over recent years.

Find out more about progress towards a new Childcare Strategy for Northern Ireland

You can read the full report of the Strategic Insight Programme here.

You can also find out more about the Education Minister’s recent announcement providing an update on ongoing work to develop a new Executive Childcare Strategy for Northern Ireland on our website here.