Northern Ireland

Executive creates 6,000 new childcare places

small child being fed
The Bright Start scheme is also expected to create 750 jobs in the childcare sector

Up to 6,000 new childcare places will be created by the NI executive over the next three years, it has been announced.

A new £15m grant scheme will make the places available in rural areas, areas of disadvantage and within schools across Northern Ireland.

It is expected the first projects will be operating by the autumn.

The scheme is also expected to create 750 new jobs in the childcare sector.

It was launched on Thursday by junior ministers Jennifer McCann and Jonathan Bell.

The scheme is the first phase of Bright Start, the executive's childcare programme.

It will create 7,000 affordable childcare places overall.

This phase will offer grants to childcare providers who target disadvantaged areas, rural areas or plan to base their services in schools.

The 6,000 new places will be for children aged four to 14.

Junior Minister Jonathan Bell said the scheme will provide a "significant boost to the economy"

Investment

Speaking at the launch in Carryduff Playcare Group, Ms McCann said: "There are currently 19 school-age children for every registered school age childcare place available.

"Affordable, accessible, quality childcare services enable parents to work and to train for work, improving a family's living standards and life chances.

"Good childcare services are an investment in both the present and the future."

Mr Bell added: "Lack of access to good, affordable childcare can prevent those who want to work from taking up employment opportunities. With this grant scheme, we will help remove those barriers.

"We will create school-age childcare services where there are currently none, or where there are currently not enough.

"This will provide a significant boost to our economy, giving parents assistance to take up work and directly creating about 750 new jobs in the childcare sector."