Belfast city centre nursery provider welcomes Assembly motion on affordable childcare and calls for investment in the sector
and live on Freeview channel 276
A Belfast city centre day nursery provider has welcomed the motion tabled at the Northern Ireland Assembly later today expected to highlight the challenges of affordable childcare and the need for greater investment in the sector.
Belfast Central Mission (BCM), the operator of Puddleducks, says that the sector needs investment to place it on a more sustainable footing due to the impacts of the Covid pandemic, rising costs and changing work patterns. According to senior management, all such issues are compounding problems in recruitment, skills, training and staff retention, just like many other key sectors across Northern Ireland.
The move comes as many of the newly installed Ministers and MLAs state that childcare provision is one of the most urgent challenges the Assembly will face and that a clear strategy must be developed at executive level.
Speaking ahead of the affordable childcare debate, Puddleducks manager, Sharon Malcolm, said: “The return of the Assembly now allows for vital issues such as the challenges around childcare provision to be highlighted with focus and much greater attention to actual solutions.
“This is a critical priority not just for parents by ensuring that families can meet the costs of childcare, but for the wider economy as well.
“There are parents that have been forced out of work due to their inability to meet these costs, but there is now an opportunity for these individuals and economically inactive members of the public to get back to work if the appropriate cross-departmental strategy is put in place.
“The early years care and education sector has been beset with turbulence and change in recent years resulting from the pandemic. Covid has permanently changed the way in which many people work – the traditional 9-5 in the office is something of the past.
“This has resulted in additional pressures on childcare providers, where you might have had a parent sending their child to childcare five days a week, but would now perhaps only be two.
“Our sector is an essential service which has an impact on every part of society. It must be high quality and sustainable while being both accessible and affordable for all families. We are nurturing, caring for and educating the youngest in our communities and our executive need to see this as an opportunity to invest in early years to ensure the best possible outcomes for our children's future.
“We are supportive of the call on the executive to deliver a strategy that makes high quality affordable childcare achievable.
“As the only part of the UK or Ireland that does not have a childcare strategy, we have an opportunity to learn from counterparts and create a world leading early years care and education sector within Northern Ireland and this must be an immediate priority for our executive."