Minister launches south Armagh childcare project

June 22, 2010

Extra childcare provision for families in the south Armagh area was announced by Agriculture and Rural Development Minister Michelle Gildernew MP MLA during a visit to the area on Wednesday.

The START pilot rural childcare project is a community based response to childcare needs identified in the area, and is one of 20 projects supported by the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development’s (DARD) Rural Childcare Programme.

It aims to increase childcare provision by delivering an outreach childcare programme, co-ordinating a bank of childcare workers and delivering after schools activities and a summer activity scheme.

Speaking at the launch, Minister Gildernew said: “Childcare services are critical for rural areas and ensuring access to affordable, high quality care for children helps increase opportunities for the entire family. Children benefit from exposure to a quality early learning environment and it gives parents a helping hand in balancing work and family life. It also plays an important role in the economic and social development of rural areas through job creation and by enabling parents to avail of employment opportunities or access training and further education.

“Today’s announcement builds on DARD’s commitment to tackling issues of poverty, exclusion and disadvantage in rural areas. Through the Rural Childcare Programme, DARD has committed £1.3million funding for 20 pilot projects throughout the north of Ireland to test creative approaches to rural childcare provision. These pilots will run until 2011 and aim to give a better understanding of what really works best for rural areas. Evidence and outcomes from the projects will be used to inform and influence Executive colleagues with responsibility for childcare, as to the need to support rural childcare.”

Una Walsh, Chairperson of South Armagh Childcare Consortium (SACC) spoke of how the project would benefit local families.

“Following research conducted last year by the South Armagh Childcare Consortium we published a report, Childcare – Who Cares? highlighting gaps in rural childcare provision in the local area,” Mrs Walsh said.

“Working in partnership with Government and other key players and with funding from DARD’s Rural Childcare Programme, this project will help to address some of the issues raised in the report and will make a real difference to families in south Armagh.”


Commending the Consortium on their innovative approach, which focuses mainly on increasing access to childcare services, the Minister said: “The START project will provide flexible and affordable outreach childcare for families throughout South Armagh. The roving crèche, the summer scheme that will kick off next month and the after-schools initiative planned for the autumn, will each play a part in increasing opportunities for parents and guardians to access training and employment opportunities.

“Local childcare organisations throughout the area will benefit from, and be supported by, the specialist childcare recruitment agency. Sharing of resources in this way will increase the efficiency and sustainability of the childcare sector in this area.

“I look forward to hearing the outcome of this pilot and believe that it has the potential to contribute positively to the formulation of future rural childcare policy for the benefit of all areas.”