Sinn Féin MLA Nicola Brogan has said the publication of a childcare strategy by the Department of Education is key to supporting the post-pandemic recovery of the sector.
Calling for clarity about the future of childcare, the party’s spokesperson on Children and Young People commented:
“The sector provided vital support to many of our key workers, including those providing health and social care throughout the pandemic and faced serious challenges in doing so. Any strategy should learn from that experience and ensure appropriate safeguards and supports are built into future planning.
“While the impact of direct virus infection amongst the very young was limited, children have been amongst some of the hardest hit in terms of emotional wellbeing and mental health. Disproportionate economic hardship as a result of the pandemic amongst our poorest and most vulnerable has also inevitably impacted on children living within those households.
“Targeted early support can challenge disadvantage and begin to close the attainment gap between our most and least advantaged children. We know the pandemic has widened that gap so a childcare strategy must recognise and address this by increasing targeted provision for those most in need.
“The Department of Education, is committed to delivering ‘extended, affordable and high-quality provision of early education and care initiatives for families with children aged between 3-4. As well as publishing a childcare strategy, the department must be clear about the allocation of funding required to deliver it.”