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DARD launch Rural Childcare Programme

2 June, 2009

The Department of Agriculture and Rural Development today launched a new £1.5million Rural Childcare Programme aimed at improving childcare provision in rural areas.

Rural Childcare was identified as a key priority in DARD’s recently developed rural Anti-Poverty and Social Inclusion Framework. The programme aims to provide solutions that address the particular and distinct challenges faced by rural communities in relation to the delivery of and access to rural childcare services.

Endorsing the programme, Minister Gildernew said: “There is an urgent need for accessible, affordable and high-quality childcare in rural areas.However, the particular circumstances of rural areas can make childcare services difficult both to deliver and to access. Childcare provision in rural areas is faced with unique challenges such as small, dispersed populations, long distances to travel and isolation. These challenges make childcare services more difficult to operate and hinder access to these services for parents.

“In July 2007, I commissioned a Rural Childcare Stakeholders’ Group to consider the difficulties with childcare provision in rural areas and to make recommendations on how best to tackle these difficulties. The group produced a report which recommended that DARD develop a Rural Childcare Programme. Their report also highlighted the importance of developing innovative models which look at new ways of delivering rural childcare across the priority areas of access, early years integration, quality, sustainability and affordability.

“Now, in response to recommendations from both the Anti-Poverty and Social Inclusion Framework and the Rural Childcare Stakeholders report, this Rural Childcare Programme has been developed. Through this programme we aim to develop a series of pilot or demonstration projects that will be evaluated and the evidence collected will then act as the basis for the development of future policy and priorities in the area of rural childcare provision.”

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