May 21, 2020
Kelly and Funchion concerned over future childcare provision

In a joint statement Sinn Fein spokespersons Catherine Kelly MLA and Kathleen Funchion TD expressed serious concerns about the future of childcare provision in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Childcare has never been a political priority, south or north and this pandemic has highlighted the fragility of current provision. We are issuing this joint statement because many of the difficulties are island wide. Childcare is a piecemeal service delivered on a shoestring and that’s just not good enough. It’s not good enough for children or their parents; it’s not good enough for providers and their workers.

“Sustainability is a huge concern going forward. Without adequate intervention now some services will never reopen. This will leave many children without a childcare placement and many highly qualified staff facing unemployment.

“Across the island, we need to take childcare seriously. The problems of underfunding and fragmented provision, north and south, were here before the virus. The pandemic exposed that reality. There will always be a role for private provision but childcare is too important to be left to the market. The provision of childcare needs to become an integral part of the government’s economic thinking, not a side show, not an add-on, not an after-thought.”

MLA Catherine Kelly was speaking out after childcare providers in the north had been left without support for weeks.

“Announcements have not been matched with support. Hopes were raised when support for small businesses was announced. But it hadn’t been designed with childcare providers in mind and many within the sector did not match the criteria. 

“The majority of childcare businesses have closed. Their workers have been furloughed but there is little support to ensure premises will survive being mothballed. £12m was allocated by the north’s Department of Finance weeks ago but the Department of Health, which is administrating the support scheme, has been slow to process access. Applications only arrived last Friday and are so complex that even submitting an application is going to be difficult.”  

TD Kathleen Funchion was speaking after a government scheme to relocate early years workers into the homes of health workers was cancelled. 

“It was impossible for early years providers and workers to sign up to it. There was no insurance in place to cover early years staff to work in homes. If Government had consulted with the sector this sort of issue could have been identified and addressed.  This goes to the heart of a lot of the difficulties, a lack of dialogue with those actually delivering the service.”

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