The Northern Ireland Executive has “failed to grasp” the importance of childcare provision within working families as they push to open up the economy again.
That’s the view of SDLP MLA Justin McNulty who says there is a frustration building within working families about the issue as more and more people are expected to return to work in the coming weeks.
“The Executive’s Pathway to Recovery sets out a number key areas and milestones as the economy returns to some sense of normality but one major flaw in the document and any announcements since it was published has been the failure to recognise or plan for childcare provision for working families as they return to work,” he explained.
“People are expected to return to work, but children are not back at school.
“We’re still told to keep our distance from grandparents, therefore many families who rely on family for childcare are left in limbo.
“Childcare is and will be a key factor in many parents’ plans to return to work.
“People are mad keen to get back to work, but they simply cannot do so by abandoning their children at home with no-one to look after them.”
Mr McNulty said there needs to be a “universal and comprehensive” childcare process put in place as a matter of urgency.
“We can utilise the private and third sector and we can work with community groups and even sports organisations,” he added.
“This is not going to be easy but ignoring the problem is not going to make it go away. Childcare provision needs resolved as a priority to allow us to fully reopen the economy.”
Newry and Armagh Alliance representative Jackie Coade said it was imperative childminders are not left behind.
“Any economic recovery package needs to include childminders who are now struggling financially with no furloughing made available to them, reduced numbers of children due to restrictions, confusion within the Childcare Support Scheme for childminders and a lack of communication amongst organisations,” she said.
“Child minders I have spoken to in Newry and Armagh don’t want money thrown at them, they want to get back to work.
“In order to do this they need clarification from the departments on how many children they can resume working with. Child minders a valued members of our workforce and provide a valuable service for working parents. At the moment I think it’s fair to say they are feeling undervalued.”
Ms Coade added: “Using unregistered childminders can be very dangerous as it presents its own risks and can be a health and safety issue for the children involved. It is important that we do everything we can to ensure childminders within Newry and Armagh are given the right support following covid 19 as we make our way into a possible recession.”