Childcare for All urges parties to ensure childcare is a day one priority following the Election
The Childcare for All Campaign is calling for investment in early education and childcare, and a new Childcare Strategy, to be a day one priority for a new Executive following the Assembly Election in May.
Despite a commitment to a long overdue Childcare Strategy in New Decade, New Approach, another generation of children has aged out of childcare while the sector, and the parents and employers who rely on it, wait for much needed investment. We appreciate that work on the new Strategy has begun, and key steps have been taken. However, this is cold comfort to the parents who are struggling to access or afford the childcare they need right now, or to the childcare providers whose costs are increasing by the day. And frustratingly, there was no allocation of funding for childcare in the draft Budget 2022-25 – a shocking omission for a sector that stepped up and delivered throughout the pandemic.
The collapse of the Executive means it is no longer possible to deliver the Budget in this mandate and there is a risk that other important work will be stalled. The new Childcare Strategy must not be a victim of political instability.
We are calling on all parties to come together after the election, whatever the outcome, to form an Executive, appoint Ministers and get on with the business that people will have elected them to do – making progress on the issues that matter to families, to employers and to all of us. This is more important than ever amidst a cost-of-living crisis that looks set to worsen over the coming year, with a significant increase projected in the number of people living in extreme poverty.
The evidence and lived experience collated by members of the Childcare for All Campaign over the years makes the strongest case possible for recognition of our childcare sector as vital economic and societal infrastructure - a public good.
· Good for children – helping to give them the best start in life
· Good for parents – enabling them to get into and progress in work, education or training
· Good for our economy – ensuring employers have access to the skilled staff they need
· Good for society – helping to reduce poverty, address gender inequality and the unequal distribution of caring responsibilities towards women.
What is needed now is strategic, long-term planning that builds on this robust evidence base, and investment to achieve a world-class childcare infrastructure that delivers childcare for all. And we need this to be a day one priority, delivering on the commitment to consult on a draft Childcare Strategy in the Autumn of 2022. We cannot afford to wait any longer.
What are we calling for?
Childcare for All has developed a Childcare Charter that can be downloaded here. We are calling for a childcare system that:
· Is affordable, accessible, flexible, high quality, and supports children’s education and development
· Is available to, and suitable for, children of all ages, those with a disability, and those living in a rural location
· Enables parents to access and stay in paid work or education and training.
· Ensures the value of childcare work is recognised with decent pay and terms and conditions.
The Childcare Charter sets out eight key outcomes that a new Northern Ireland Executive must commit to achieving for the benefit of children, childcare providers, parents and our society and economy as a whole.
So what can you do?
Your voice is essential. This is your opportunity to tell politicians why investment in childcare, and a new Childcare Strategy, is so important. You can contact your local MLAs through the TheyWorkForYou website. Alternatively, here are some questions you can ask the politicians who come to your door ahead of the election:
· What will you do to ensure that high-quality childcare is affordable for all parents?
· How will you support the childcare sector to deliver the high-quality, flexible, affordable childcare that parents need and that gives children the best start in life?
· How will you ensure better recognition, pay and conditions for our vital early years and childcare workforce?
· The cost of living crisis is affecting all of us, and the number of people living in poverty is expected to increase. So while we await the new Childcare Strategy, what will you do NOW to help reduce costs for childcare providers and for parents?
You can personalise your questions, sharing your own experience to help explain why investment in childcare matters to you, and what solutions you would like to see.