Ratio reform overdue as childminders flee sector

Unite seeking urgent meeting with Secretary of State for Northern Ireland

Trade union Unite, which organises Registered Childminders throughout Northern Ireland, is seeking a meeting with the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Chris Heaton-Harris, to clarify which elements, if any, of the additional childcare funding announced in last week’s Budget have been earmarked for Northern Ireland. 

Speaking today (Monday 20 March), Unite’s Susan Fitzgerald said that working parents and women working as childminders are facing a growing childcare crisis. 

Unite’s RCM members care for children in their own homes, providing a vital child-centred service to working parents.  Yet the predominantly women workers providing that service, and the working parents who depend on it, are facing a crisis, with seven in 10 childminders considering leaving the sector due to difficulty making ends meet.  Unite’s RCM Branch has argued that the most effective and sustainable way to address this crisis is to reform the current child-to-childminder ratios.

Commenting, Susan Fitzgerald said:

“Parents working outside the home depend on other workers – predominantly women – caring for children inside their own home.  Yet public policy is failing both sets of workers.

“A Unite survey at the end of last year showed that 69% of the union’s RCM members are considering leaving the profession. Unite is aware of ten Registered Childminders who de-registered just last week amidst a continuing cost-of-living crisis which has seen childminders’ heating and lighting bills double.

“Northern Ireland is facing a growing childcare crisis, but it is unclear how much, if any, of the new Budget 2023 childcare funding will be available to Northern Ireland.

“The immediate focus must be on retaining existing childminders and ensuring that their expertise and experience is not lost.

“Unite has written to the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Chris Heaton-Harris, seeking an urgent meeting to clarify how Budget 2023 will support children, parents and Registered Childminders in Northern Ireland, and to outline our members’ proposals for child-to-childminder ratio reform”, Ms Fitzgerald said.

Dolores McCormick is chair of Unite’s RCM Branch and added:

“Registered Childminders are committed to children and communities.  They know the issues facing the sector and have proposed a set of solutions which would increase supply by safely increasing child-to-childminder ratios and bringing Northern Ireland into line with Wales.  This would boost childminders’ incomes while increasing the supply of childminding places and facilitating parents entering the workforce – a win-win-win.

“We need immediate clarification regarding what, if any funding, will be available to Northern Ireland under the package announced last week, and we need the authorities to give urgent consideration to the ratio reform proposals developed by Unite’s RCM Branch”, Ms McCormick concluded.