PlayBoard has welcomed the announcement of an initial £25 million of investment in support of the emerging Early Learning and Childcare Strategy as a first step towards addressing the many challenges facing the childcare sector and parents in Northern Ireland. 

The announcement sets out a range of measures aimed at sustaining the childcare sector, albeit with a focus on pre-school and early years. This includes investment in pre-school education expansion, support for several existing Department of Education funded schemes and a new childcare subsidy scheme aimed at alleviating cost pressure on parents of pre-school children.

Speaking about the announcement, Alan Herron, PlayBoard CEO said:

“Whilst full details are yet to emerge, this announcement reflects a much-needed focus by the Executive on the challenges facing the childcare system. 

The introduction of subsidies aimed at reducing the costs associated with childcare during the pre-school years will take significant pressure off parents. Whilst acknowledging the significance of this move, as lead representative body for the play-based School-Age Childcare sector, PlayBoard would however strongly advocate the need for an expansion of this support beyond the pre-school years to encompass those parents using School-Aged Childcare services. 

Play-based School-Age Childcare is at the core of many children’s lives, delivering significant benefits in terms of physical health and well-being, learning, skills and social development. It is critical that those parents who rely on, and those providers who deliver after-school childcare are not forgotten at this time of continued crisis.

Whilst this announcement represents an important first step for childcare overall, the expansion of support to the School-Age Childcare sector remains critical. We look forward to working with the Department to progress targeted action aimed at ensuring that play-based School-Age Childcare providers and the parents who use those services are supported in equal measure.”

View the Department of Education announcement.