Play – our way! Lobbying and why we do it.

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Play – our way! Lobbying and why we do it.

Lobbying and childcare isn’t something you would normally see in the same sentence?

People ask why we dedicate so much time to lobbying in Sleepy Hollow.

When we say lobbying its not taking part in any political marches with placards strapped to our back.  We are more purposeful than that!

Some of the ways we choose to lobby are :

  1. Being part of committees where we can make our voices heard.

*The voices of working parents as we hear your difficulties every day in terms of flexible childcare and the cost of childcare.

*The voices of our staff as we know this is a low paid sector which has exceptionally high levels of training required which are often not funded

*Childcare providers themselves as we all know too well the high cost of offering affordable but most importantly QUALITY childcare – so many settings have closed in the past 12 months or will close as a result of wage increases in April.  We need to protect each other!  Hence the importance of employer lead committees and forums.  We need our membership bodies to support our causes too.

2. Writing responses to consultations such at the rates consultation. As a sector we regularly complain about the exceptional cost of rates especially as our counterparts on Mainland get rates relief.  The shockingly poor turnout to the rates consultation held for day care owners in Early Years really was disappointing.  If we aren’t lobbying for things such as rates relief then it means operational costs go up and in return the cost of childcare increases and in turn we cannot afford to pay for staff training or higher wages (goes back to point one)

3. Lobbying for a quality agenda.  We attended many meetings during the consultation period of the minimum standards for example.  Again if employers don’t attend these meetings which form part of our inspection process then we cannot complain or feel aggrieved if we dont like how its managed.  All settings had a choice to have their voices heard.  Certainly if your voice was ignored or your REASONABLE opinions were not taken on board you have every right to feel aggrieved but often those who shout loudest didn’t attend any of the consultation meetings.

4. Funding meetings – we have NEVER been given funding or grant aid for anything (with the exception of training which was sector wide).  Partly because we are a private organisation with a social economy ethos my personal opinion is I think we should be self sustaining and giving back where we can. I know many others in our sector who have successfully obtained grant funding  for their private nurseries but the money they have obtained (which has resulted undoubtedly in not having to go down the route of financial loans) has meant significant financial savings.  These savings haven’t  necessarily been passed on in terms of reducing childcare costs or raising staff salaries – so that wouldn’t sit comfortably with us at Sleepy Hollow.  We do attend funding meetings however that may impact our sector and would lobby against some of the financial incentives which come from the public purse if they are funding elements of our sector which are non sustainable.  Its important that any money in our sector for the direct benefit of children and young people has measured outcomes.  This doesn’t mean that we won’t apply for grant funding at any stage but we are more focused on being self sustaining, not relying on tax payers money and giving back where we can.  So we continue to lobby for the correct use of funding into our sector.  Our main objective is to lobby for funding for parents first and foremost.

5. Lobbying local politicians – we sit on a childcare committee at Stormont where all of the political parties are represented.  This gives us direct access to feeding back our issues as childcare providers to those who can direct change through a childcare strategy.

6. Social media platforms – we use our social media platforms mostly for sharing our day to day work and fun within the organisation but we use more serious platforms such as LinkedIn to raise sectoral issues. Most recently our post was about the introduction of wraparound boarding departments within state schools in England – is this a step too far.  This simply raises meaningful discussions but can also be influential so in effect is indirectly lobbying.

We have an important role as childcare providers.  Our focus of course should always be on the children and young people – the quality of care and the rapport with our clients.  We have a sector to protect however for these children and young people and we are in a good position to explain the day to day difficulty parents face in our sector.  If every owner or manager of a setting in our sector (including childminders) could give up one or two hours a month to this cause our sector would be stronger for it.



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