Alliance Calls For Urgent Delivery Of Early Learning And Childcare Strategy

The Alliance Party has called on the Minister of Education, Paul Givan, to urgently bring forward a timeline for delivery on the Early Learning and Childcare Strategy.

Speaking ahead of a debate on childcare in the Assembly today, 12 February, Alliance Early Years and Childcare spokesperson and South Belfast MLA, Kate Nicholl, said: "With the Assembly and Executive now restored, it is clear that there is a cross-party shared ambition to deliver on childcare reform. With day one now come and gone, we must move towards delivering on the commitments made.

"As I write, Alliance remains the only party to have published detailed proposals for childcare reform, set out within our Children First paper, and we are absolutely committed to delivering child-centred, flexible, affordable, high-quality childcare as key social and economic infrastructure. While other parties have stated their support for childcare reform, we look forward to hearing more detail on what plans they have to create a system that actually works, offering the best possible assistance to children, parents, and childcare providers.
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"The childcare sector itself is in need of immediate support. The 2023 Employers for Childcare survey indicated that 77% of day nurseries anticipated they would have to increase their fees in the coming year. It is simply unacceptable that childcare providers are being forced to make decisions between raising fees for parents, reducing days, or in some cases, closing altogether.

"These are the deeply troubling consequences for a sector that is under considerable pressure and that has been consistently underfunded. I will raise the need for emergency support for the sector to avoid fee increases with the Education Minister, as well as call on him to set up a Childcare Advisory Panel for discussing and advising on these kinds of issues going forward.

"I am also calling on the Education Minister to urgently bring forward a plan and timeline for delivery of the Childcare Strategy. After two years of the institutions being collapsed, there is simply no more time to waste. We must act now to build a bespoke childcare system for Northern Ireland, learning from the experiences of reform across these islands, and implementing the very best system to maximise the developmental opportunities for our children and benefits for our economy."

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