Sinn Féin Newry/Armagh MLA, Megan Fearon has welcomed the statement from OFMdFM on the promise of development of a comprehensive childcare strategy.
Ms. Fearon stated,
“I welcome the statement from the First and Deputy First Ministers Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness that up to 6000 places could be created in developing a childcare strategy for the North.
“The initial 3000 places under the ‘Bright Start’ programme will follow a Social Enterprise Model and operate in top 25% of areas of disadvantage while another 2,000 will be integrated within the schools estate. This total of 5000 could rise depending on demand.”
“It is also noted that the deficiencies in rural areas of affordable childcare places has been taken into consideration with over 1000 places targeted at addressing these shortfalls through the Rural Child-minder Package and 1,000 more places to be developed following a Social Enterprise Model in rural areas. Additionally consideration will be given to improving the transport network to allow families to access rural child minding facilities.
“I am also content that equality and access for disabled children will be met through the grant scheme that will allow small child-minding facilities to be adapted for children with disabilities.
“This is a welcome first step in creating a sustainable and affordable childcare service right across the North allowing parents more flexibility in returning to work or education.
“I will continue to work in the OFMDFM committee to ensure that the full strategy comes together in the year ahead and that we also put a focus on childcare for the 0-3 year children.”