AQW 155/22-27

Mr Nick Mathison
Alliance Party

Tabled Date: 18/05/2022
Answered On Date: 06/06/2022
Priority Written: No

To ask the Minister of Education for an update on (i) the research project commissioned to inform the development of a Childcare Strategy; and (ii) the current timeline for publication of the Childcare Strategy consultation.

The COVID-19 Childcare Reference Group (CRG) played an important role in supporting the work of both the Department of Education and the Department of Health (DoH) during the emergency response to the pandemic. However, now that my Department is re-focusing its efforts on the development of the Executive Childcare Strategy, a new engagement forum is needed to reflect this wider remit. Many of the same organisations and interests will be represented on this new forum as were on the CRG, but it is important that we take this opportunity to refresh the membership and bring new voices to the table.
My Department has also launched the tender exercise to commission an independent research report on a Review of Childcare Services in Northern Ireland. It is envisaged that a contract to take forward the review will be in place by end of June 2022 and will run to December 2022. A separate exercise to produce a costed implementation plan for the standardisation of pre-school hours is also under consideration.
Initial engagement with key stakeholders through a Strategic Insight Programme took place between October and December 2021 and further focused discussions on key themes will be required. I am committed to progressing the Executive Childcare Strategy as quickly as possible, however we need the evidence from these substantial pieces of work in order to develop costed solutions for Executive consideration.