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Gildernew welcomes Childcare Report

23 April, 2008

Sinn Féin Rural Development Minister Michelle Gildernew MP, MLA has been presented with the Report of the Rural Childcare Stakeholder Group during a visit to Ardboe SureStart.

Praising the work of the Surestart Centre the Minister said:

"This project is an excellent example of a rural childcare facility that meets the needs of families in the local community. This project has the potential to bring about great improvements in the lives of local women and children, support families and contribute to the economic and social development of the area."

The Minister continued:

"The provision of good quality, affordable childcare is no less important to rural parents and children than to those in towns. But the particular circumstances of rural areas can make childcare services difficult to deliver. Parents need access to childcare so that they can make the most of opportunities such as employment or training and employers need childcare so that they can attract and retain a skilled and committed workforce. Quality childcare services for young children bring long-term benefits - not only to them, but also to their parents and wider families, to their communities, and to society at large."

In June 2007 the minister took the first step towards more accessible childcare for rural families by commissioning a Rural Childcare Stakeholders' Group to take a fresh look at the question of childcare in rural areas.

She said:

"I asked the Rural Childcare Stakeholders' Group to identify the main factors affecting access to childcare in rural areas, including special-needs childcare, and consider ways to advance matters."

The report identifies the main factors that affect access to childcare in rural areas and makes recommendations on how current and future provision can be improved. The minister continued:

"I intend to work with my colleagues across the Executive to ensure good quality, accessible and affordable childcare is available in every part of the country. As a starting point, at least 5% of funding of the Quality of Life measure of the new Rural Development Programme 2007-2013 is targeted towards children and young people. In addition I plan to establish a Rural Childcare Programme as part of my department's anti-poverty and social inclusion framework and I expect it to be operational by autumn 2008."


1. The stakeholder group was a short-term advisory group, and its members did not receive any payment for their participation. The Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD) facilitated the group.

2. Members of the Stakeholder Group:

  • Bridget Nodder, Director - Northern Ireland Childminding Association
  • Siobhán Doherty, Co-ordinator - Northern Ireland Rural Women's Network
  • Mary Duggan, Chair - Northern Ireland Rural Women's Network
  • Michele Baird, Co-ordinator - South Antrim Rural Network
  • Siobhán Fitzpatrick, Chief Executive - NIPPA
  • Gráinne Close, Network Co-ordinator - TADA Rural Network
  • Teresa Canavan, Deputy Chief Executive - Northern Ireland Rural Development Council
  • Karin Eyben, Policy Co-ordinator - Rural Community Network
  • Gillian Cheatley, Policy Officer - Legislation, Poultry and Rural Affairs Committee, Ulster Farmers' Union
  • Esther Ervine, Chairperson - Rural Affairs Committee, Ulster Farmers' Union
  • Ann Orr, Programme Manager - Women in Agriculture
  • Carol Carser, Central Anti-Poverty Unit - OFMDFM
  • Dr Sally Shortall, School of Physiology and Social Policy - Queen's University Belfast
  • Mary McColgan, Head of the School of Sociology and Applied Social Studies - University of Ulster

3. Ardboe SureStart is based at the rural business park on the site of the former aerodrome in Ardboe, County Tyrone. The aim of SureStart is to work with parents-to-be, parents and children to promote the physical, intellectual and social development of babies and young children - so that they can flourish at home and when they get to school.

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