Junior Ministers Michelle McIveen and Jennifer McCann today launched a consultation on the Executives draft Childcare Strategy.
The ten year strategy aims to develop and deliver affordable, high quality and integrated childcare services which gives children the best start in life, while supporting and enabling parents to participate in the workforce. It includes proposals to increase the supply of childcare places, from pre-school through school-age, from the present 56,000 to 100,000.
Launching the consultation, Junior Minister McIlveen said: ''Many families struggle to pay for the childcare that they and their children need. This draft strategy sets out our plans on how to address this issue and make significant changes for the better. Our strategy also aims to develop local childcare services, create childcare jobs and develop the skills of people working in the childcare sector. Many excellent and diverse childcare services already exist which we plan to build on to create a system that can offer flexibility and choice.
We want to create a Northern Ireland where the cost and availability of childcare does not impede the opportunities of today''s working parents and provides our children and young people with the best possible care.
Junior Minister McCann commented: ''These are ambitious proposals which aim to transform childcare provision here. The draft Strategy supports our vision that every child, parent and family will have access to childcare that meets their needs.
The provision of quality, affordable childcare services has the potential to deliver significant benefits for our society. It is a catalyst for learning and lifelong motivation, promoting equality, inclusion and social mobility. We also want to help parents who want to work. Work is a path out of disadvantage. We want, through this Strategy, to help as many people as possible take that path. I know childcare is a very important matter for parents, families and providers, and I urge everyone to make their voices heard in this consultation.â€
This draft strategy builds on the actions in the first phase, launched in September 2013, and outlines 22 areas for action to make childcare services more responsive to the needs of parents, including the need for more flexible care, and examining ways of promoting awareness and uptake of financial assistance for childcare costs.
The Childcare Strategy is an important part of the Executives Delivering Social Change framework.
The consultation period will close on Friday 13 November 2015.An electronic version of the consultation and details on how to respond are available on http://www.ofmdfmni.gov.uk/childcare.