Review of childcare services in Northern Ireland

The Department of Education (DE) has commissioned a Review of Childcare Services in Northern Ireland to inform the development of the new Childcare Strategy for Northern Ireland, to be published by the Executive. This independent review is being carried out by research company RSM, along with its subcontractors: National Children’s Bureau, Dr Glenda Walsh of Stranmillis University College and LucidTalk.

The review will involve interviews with key stakeholders and childcare providers, surveys with childcare providers and parents with children aged 0-14 and focus groups with parents and carers. The output of the Review will be a detailed, evidence-based, research report, due in December 2022.

Survey for childcare providers

RSM will be inviting the managers of all childcare settings or registered providers of childcare services in Northern Ireland, to take part in an online survey. The survey will be live from early September and links will be shared with providers directly by Family Support NI.

The information collected through this survey will be anonymised, and the answers will help RSM to understand the current state of the childcare sector in Northern Ireland, including the supply and demand of childcare services, their accessibility and affordability, the financial health of providers and any workforce challenges faced by the sector.

Survey for parents

A separate survey for parents will be distributed by LucidTalk. Any parents who complete the survey will have the opportunity to indicate if they are interested in taking part in a focus group to explore the affordability and accessibility of childcare in more detail.

What next?

The information collected through these surveys will be used to inform the development of the Executive’s new Childcare Strategy.

This is an important piece of work, that should build on the wealth of existing evidence in place, including over a decade of our own research from the Northern Ireland Childcare Survey. Over the years, tens of thousands of parents and childcare providers here have highlighted through this research that they need to see investment in our childcare sector which allows parents to be able to access and afford the childcare they need, and support providers to deliver high quality childcare sustainably.

We would encourage all providers and parents who receive a request to complete the survey to do so as soon, and as fully, as possible.

At the same time, we are calling for the Department of Education to set out a clear timeline for the publication of the new Childcare Strategy, which remains long overdue, and has already been significantly delayed. This is much to the frustration and deep worry of the childcare sector and those who rely on it, particularly at a time when the sector is facing significant challenges as a result of rising costs. This is critical to maintain momentum, building on all the work of the last few years, to finally turn planning into progress, and progress into policy – policy that really delivers for families, childcare providers and our economy and society as a whole.