Working towards childcare for all in Northern Ireland – an introduction to our campaign #childcareforall
We have been working on the Childcare For All campaign for over a year, but this is our first blog – so what is Childcare For All, and how did it all come about?
Back in early 2018, as a few of us sat down over a cup of coffee and the idea for a new campaign, focused on securing better investment in childcare, was born. While chatting through the issues and challenges, we quickly realised we were having these same conversations over and over with colleagues also working in the childcare and family sector. We were frustrated at the absence of a childcare strategy and concerned about the future for families confronted with welfare reform. We were seeing parents leave the workforce due to an inability to afford childcare, and hearing from childcare providers worrying about their own future sustainability.
We shared a frustration that other parts of the UK were introducing new forms of support, funding hours of childcare for eligible families. Families and childcare providers in Northern Ireland were being left scratching their heads over why there was still no investment in our vital childcare sector, investment needed to ensure we are giving our children the best start in life.
It was clear that these same conversations were happening between different groups of people, but not yet together. With the collapse of the Northern Ireland Executive and the lack of local Government, it was even more important that we took the opportunity to join forces and create a new coalition. A coalition that would provide a strong forum to share evidence, experience and ideas from across a wide range of sectors. This included women’s organisations, children’s charities, umbrella bodies and trades unions. From this, Childcare For All was born. The campaign provides the opportunity for these groups to speak with one collective voice. We are calling for universal, child-centred childcare to meet the needs of families and childcare providers, and help create a more equal society in Northern Ireland.
Having decided on a name and a broad ambition, the next thing we did was agree a Charter. This sets out a vision of a childcare infrastructure that works for children, for parents, for the childcare sector and for society as a whole. Despite our diverse membership, we all agreed on our key message, and our aims for an inclusive childcare infrastructure.
So, what have we done so far?
We have organised a number of different types of events. These have brought together parents, childcare providers, elected representatives, policy-makers and others with an interest in delivering the investment and reform our vital childcare infrastructure needs. In the past year we have:
Launched our campaign at Stormont: provided an overview of the campaign and highlighted key areas for action, securing support from political representatives.
Brought families together for a Family Fun Day: this gave families an opportunity to meet and discuss childcare, putting their views directly to a range of political representatives.
Organised a Policy Conference: this brought stakeholders together to hear a range of research and evidence from academics, service providers and charities working in, with and for the childcare sector in Northern Ireland.
Since the official launch in May 2018, the campaign has grown and expanded taking on new members and reaching new audiences, all the while pushing for progress. We have sought to build on the foundation of years of work including research, lobbying, and direct service provision to families seeking access to childcare. We will continue to work together to present a united challenge, and opportunity for engagement, to those responsible for planning and investing in childcare, to ensure it is firmly on the agenda of any new Executive. We are delighted with the new sense of momentum and particularly with the establishment of a new All Party Assembly Working Group on early education and childcare.
We are proud of what Childcare for All has achieved so far in ensuring childcare has gained prominence on the political agenda, but this is just a first step! We are ambitious for more and look forward to building on the platform we now have to secure the investment that will help to ensure our childcare infrastructure is high quality, affordable, and accessible for all.
This is the first blog post of a series from the Childcare for All coalition… stay tuned for more!