Nicholl: The voice of parents must be included in the development of childcare policy

Kate Nicholl MLA, Alliance Party Early Years and Childcare spokesperson, has again called for the re-establishment of the Childcare Reference Group (CRG).

Kate Nicholl Childcare

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Department of Health and Education together established a CRG that included representatives from the childcare sector. The CRG advised and supported the Executive during the pandemic but was later dissolved, something the Alliance Party has consistently called to be reversed.

The South Belfast MLA said: “The Childcare Reference Group (CRG) played a vital role during the COVID-19 pandemic in helping both the Department of Education and the Department of Health respond to the challenges facing the childcare sector, and we deeply regret that the group was dissolved.

“It is absolutely crucial that the childcare sector and parents are as deeply involved as possible in conversations about the future direction of childcare provision and policy in Northern Ireland. I have written to the Department of Health requesting that the CRG is established once again on as inclusive a basis as possible, ensuring that the childcare sector and parents have a voice in the development of childcare policy. We have seen parents being mobilised and coming together to demand better and fight for reform to our childcare system. It is vital that those who are living and experiencing the realities of our childcare system every day have a seat at the table and form part of policy development.

"We know childcare is one of the most significant pressures facing our families. That is why we published our affordable childcare scheme proposals, ‘Children First’, to deliver a practical and child-centred solution to the current crisis, with reduced costs for parents and more support for childcare providers. Parents don’t fall for policy sound bites and we need to be ambitious for our children and families.

“We are confident this document can act as a blueprint for an incoming Executive, which if restored and reformed, can begin to deliver quality childcare for all children.”