WRDA is co-convenor of the Childcare For All campaign with our partners Employers For Childcare. The campaign coalition is a network of organisations that have come together to call for universal, child-centred childcare that meets the needs of children, families, childcare workers and providers and helps create a more equal society. We have developed a Childcare For All Charter setting out our vision of a childcare system that is affordable, accessible, flexible, high quality, and which supports children’s education and development. We also want to see the value of childcare work recognised with decent pay and terms and conditions.

The campaign launched on 1st May in Parliament Buildings, hosted by Clare Bailey MLA. Our aims achieved support from all the parties who pledged to do what they could to work for progress despite their inability to bring forward legislation through Stormont.

A key focus of Childcare For All is to give a platform to parents and families affected by lack of access to childcare that is affordable or suitable for their child’s needs. We have been delighted to see the public get on board through social media, sharing their stories through childcare video diaries. We’ve held a family friendly event for parents and children, developed an online public campaign, updated our Childcare for All Charter, facilitated a policy conference and supported MLAs to establish a cross-party working group.

In March 2019, the Childcare for All Campaign hosted ‘Childcare Policy Development in NI: Exploring Drivers and Addressing Barriers’ in Riddel Hall, Belfast. The conference was sponsored by the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland and the Administrative Data Research Centre and brought together ninety participants from government departments including education, health and finance and diverse organisations who are concerned with child poverty, disability and gender equality.  The key message from the event was that childcare policy in NI needs a radical rethink and significant investment and that all departments can work together to achieve this. Childcare For All has produced a conference paper from this event that summarises all the evidence presented and makes recommendations about how policy makers and politicians can make progress towards better childcare policy.

Work on the campaign is continuing throughout the Covid-19 crisis. Whilst we welcome the publication of the NI Executive five-stage plan for easing the COVID-19 lockdown, it is frustrating that childcare has not been referenced explicitly in this road map and we have raised this with Ministers and with Departments. The childcare needs of everyone in the Northern Ireland workforce must be at the forefront of planning to ensure parents and providers are not facing unnecessary risks or barriers to work. It is crucial that more detail is given by the Executive in the coming days on the role of childcare moving forward. The Childcare for All campaign will continue to raise the needs of parents, providers and employers in line with any moves to ease the COVID-19 lockdown. You can read our full statement on this development here

Keep up to date on the latest from the Childcare For All campaign by following the campaign on Twitter and checking out the campaign website. Women’s Sector Lobbyist, Rachel Powell has written a short blog post on the discriminatory nature or our current system and an overview of the campaign.