Childcare for All Campaign – COVID-19 Statement
The co-convenors of the Childcare for All Campaign, WRDA and Employers For Childcare, welcome the publication of the Northern Ireland Executive five-stage plan for easing the COVID-19 lockdown. However while significant work is ongoing within the Departments of Health and Education to support the childcare sector and ensure its sustainability, and a financial support package is being implemented, it is frustrating that childcare has not been referenced explicitly in this road map and we have raised this with Ministers and with Departments.
Access to childcare is part of our essential infrastructure - it is necessary for people to go back to work, and a key component of any pathway to recovery. It will not be possible to reach even stage 1 of the road map to ending lockdown without childcare being recognised and treated as a major factor. COVID-19 has had an extreme impact on the lives of everyone in Northern Ireland.
Aoife Hamilton, Policy and Information Manager, Employers For Childcare has said:
“In these unprecedented times, it is right that we ensure our childcare sector is supported to deliver childcare now for children of key workers who require that care and for vulnerable children, and we welcome the financial support package now available. However, we also need to look ahead to the sector's future sustainability when a strong, secure childcare infrastructure will be essential as we seek to rebuild our economy. Ultimately, some settings – who were operating effective, successful and much needed services within the community - may not be able to re-open after the pandemic, leading to a reduction in childcare places at the very time when the economy needs working parents, and a loss of employment for their staff.”
Rachel Powell, Women’s Sector Lobbyist, WRDA has said:
“Childcare is an issue that impacts all aspects of society in Northern Ireland. However, it cannot be ignored that women are 91% of single parents in Northern Ireland, 70% of health and social care staff and undertake the vast majority of care for dependents. Evidence suggests that women are disproportionately impacted by COVID-19 through gender segregated labour and low-paid, precarious work on the frontlines. An inter-departmental approach to tackling these issues is crucial.”
We welcome the financial support package that has now opened for application from eligible settings. The scheme will run until the end of June and is designed to support settings to provide care for the children of key workers or for vulnerable childcare, and
to support the sustainability of settings that have had to close. To find out more about the Covid-19 financial support package that is available for the childcare sector visit: https://www.familysupportni.gov.uk/NewsStory/92/covid19-childcare-options-and-associated-guidance
The childcare needs of everyone in the Northern Ireland workforce must be at the forefront of planning to ensure parents and providers are not facing unnecessary risks or barriers to work. It is crucial that more detail is given by the Executive in the coming days on the role of childcare moving forward, beyond the current financial support package, so that parents, childcare providers and employers can plan for their own progress through the stages. The Childcare for All campaign will continue to raise the needs of parents, providers and employers in line with any moves to ease the COVID-19 lockdown.