On 23 May, Education Minister Paul Givan MLA announced a £25million package of measures to support children, parents and providers with early learning and childcare in the 2024/25 financial year.

PlayBoard has welcomed the announcement as a first step towards addressing the many challenges facing the childcare sector and parents in Northern Ireland. 

The announcement set out a range of measures aimed at sustaining the early learning and childcare sector, albeit with a focus at this stage on pre-school and early years provision through the Northern Ireland Childcare Subsidy Scheme.

This support includes investment in pre-school education standardisation, support for several existing Department of Education funded schemes (including Sure Start, Pathway and Toybox) alongside a new childcare subsidy scheme aimed at alleviating cost pressures on working parents with children below primary school age.

As the lead representative body for the play-based School-Age Childcare sector, and on behalf of our membership, PlayBoard has been seeking assurances from the Department of Education that the needs of the School-Age Childcare sector are included within the package of support, in line with what has been agreed by the Executive. We are reassured that this will include the ability for the sector to apply for financial assistance under a new targeted business support scheme.

Whilst we welcome the introduction of the targeted business support, we are however disappointed that the childcare subsidy aimed at alleviating financial pressure on parents is, at this stage, restricted to working parents with children below primary school age.  

Play-based School-Age Childcare providers are at the core of many children’s lives, delivering quality childcare support for parents whilst they are economically active, and valuable play opportunities for school aged children that contribute significant benefits in terms of their health and well-being; education, learning and social development. It is critical that those parents who rely on, and those providers who deliver out of school childcare, are not forgotten at this time of continued crisis.

Regarding Bright Start funding, the Department is not in a position to currently administer formal confirmation of funding for the current financial year. However, it is anticipated that once the budget is agreed by the Executive, notification will be sent to those already in receipt of Bright Start funding. Recognising the challenges this uncertainty places on providers, PlayBoard has strongly articulated the need for urgent action to bring stability to those School-Age Childcare providers and parents affected.

PlayBoard will continue to advocate on behalf of our membership and the wider School-Age Childcare sector in order to raise the needs of the sector with Ministers, Departments and political representatives. 

Read previous statement.