Up to 6,000 new childcare places will be created over the next three years, it was announced yesterday.
In a joint statement, junior ministers Jennifer McCann and Jonathan Bell revealed that up to 7,000 affordable childcare places – 1,000 of which already exist and will be sustained – will now be supported as part of the Bright Start School Age Childcare Grant Scheme.
The places are for children aged four to 14, allowing them to be looked after in places such as after-school clubs, for example.
The £15m scheme will make the places available in rural areas and areas of disadvantage, and is also expected to create 750 new jobs in the childcare sector.
Minister McCann, with the Office of First and Deputy First Minister, said: “There are currently 19 school age children for every registered school age childcare place available. This presents a range of challenges for parents and childcare providers.
“All of the places funded under this Grant Scheme will target the needs of disadvantaged families, the rural community or be based on the school estate. Affordable, accessible, quality childcare services enable parents to work and to train for work.”
Minister Bell added that the Executive is determined to “remove barriers to employment”.
“Lack of access to good, affordable childcare can prevent those who want to work take up employment opportunities,” he added.
The School Age Childcare Grant Scheme is part of the first phase of Bright Start, the Executive’s Programme for affordable and integrated childcare.
Grants will be paid to childcare providers who operate on social economy principles and who will target the needs of disadvantaged areas, or people in rural areas.
The application form and guidance are available from: http://www.hscboard.hscni.net/brightstart/