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Consortium embarks on ambitious rural childcare programme

April 6, 2010


By Brónagh Murphy

The South Armagh Childcare Consortium (SACC) is about to embark on an ambitious project to deliver affordable community childcare across the area.

Having recently secured £96,000 in funding from the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development’s (DARD) Rural Childcare Programme, the group aims to “fill existing gaps” in existing childcare provision, according to the Project Co-ordinator, Fiona McVerry.

Based in the Cardinal Ó Fiaich Centre in Cullyhanna, SACC was established in March 2008 as a direct response to the limited availability of registered childcare provision in the south Armagh area.  Working with statutory, voluntary and business organisations, the group’s main aim is to improve childcare development and service delivery.  It also provides support and information to childcare providers in the south Armagh area and furnishes parents with information on registered minders.

Last year the Consortium conducted extensive research into the provision of childcare in the south Armagh area, which culminated in the publication of the report ‘Childcare – Who Cares?’

Following the report’s recommendations, an application was submitted to DARD for funding support under the Rural Childcare Programme and, having successfully attained this funding, the group will begin to roll out its programme in the coming months.

The aim of the project is to address the challenges faced by parents living in the rural south Armagh area by developing and delivering sustainable community childcare.

It is hoped that this provision will enable parents to avail of training opportunities, take part in community events or to attend appointments.

“What we don’t want to do is compete with childcare providers in the area.  We are trying to fill the obvious gaps,” Fiona said.

“In some areas of south Armagh there are already good systems in place to provide childcare.  These include day nurseries, crèches, registered childminders, playgroups and after-school facilities, so naturally we will only offer services if these providers are over subscribed.

“We are relying on communities to identify a local childcare need and to engage with us.  As a cross-community organisation, we want to work in partnership with communities and organisations to improve the lives of families across the south Armagh area.

“The DARD funding has enabled us to employ one full time and two part time staff and has given us the opportunity to purchase resources for the childcare delivery,” Fiona explained.

“There will be a cost for our customers, however, as we are a social enterprise – a not-for profit organisation – we will endeavour to keep this cost to a minimum.”

Future plans

The Consortium has plans for a pilot six-week summer scheme and an afterschool club, both of which will be held in the Creggan Ward area, while it is envisaged that the sessional childcare will commence in September.

Registration

The Consortium is actively encouraging people who are interested in working in childcare to become registered.

“I recognise there are good quality providers who have not become registered for a variety of reasons. However, registration offers protection to childcare providers in areas such as child protection and insurance and also promotes high quality provision,” Fiona said.

“We have already increased the number of registered childminders in the south Armagh area but there is still a lot of work to be done.”

Fiona has appealed to individuals or organisations who believe their area may benefit from childcare assistance to contact her.

She is also keen to point out that there are currently a small number of registered childcare places available in the south Armagh area.

For further details on these or any of the work associated with the South Armagh Childcare Consortium contact Fiona McVerry on 3086 1754 or at fionamcverry@googlemail.com.


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