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Childcare is crucial to rural inclusion - Gildernew

8 March, 2011

Families, communities and the local economy in the north of Ireland will benefit from increased availability of registered childcare in rural areas according to Agriculture and Rural Development Minister Michelle Gildernew MP, MLA.

The “Promoting Accessible Rural Childminding” Project funded by the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development’s (DARD) Rural Childcare Programme is creating over 100 new registered childminders and up to 400 new childcare places in rural areas throughout the north.

The project, which is being delivered by NICMA - the Childminding Association, identified 15 rural areas as being in need of new childminding provision and is providing support and training to individuals in these areas interested in embarking on childminding as a profession.

Presenting participants in the programme with their Quality Business Start training certificates Minister Gildernew said: “Lack of childcare provision in rural areas is widely recognised as a barrier to parents’ participation in employment, social and community activities in their local area. For many, it presents a major stumbling block when it comes to getting a job or availing of training. This is particularly true for low paid and lone parents. In many instances unmet need forces parents to take their children to other facilities in nearby villages and towns, which can result in children not being integrated into their local community.

“The Rural Childcare Project has a key role to play in reversing this trend and in reducing poverty and promoting inclusion in rural areas. In the current economic climate, the creation of these childcare businesses will make a vital contribution to local rural employment and increased availability of registered childcare will mean that the less well off will be able to access these childcare services through the childcare element of the working tax credits. This will be of tremendous benefit and will ensure that those children who have most to gain from quality care will have the means to access it.”

Congratulating the participants on their achievements, the Minister added: “I commend NICMA on their endeavour to increase the number of childminders in these rural areas and for the support, advice, mentoring and training which they have delivered. I congratulate all the recipients of the Quality Business Start training and wish them well for the future and have no doubt that their job as a childminder will be rewarding both for them and the children they care for.”

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