Big thank you from

Jenny Monroe talks to Nora Smith

Nora SmithNora Smith, 36, is Policy & Information Manager for Lisburn based charity Employers For Childcare. Employers For Childcare aim to make it easier for parents with dependent children to get into, and to stay in, work. The organisation was set up in 1999 by the now Chief Executive Officer Marie Marin. The social enterprise, Employers For Childcare Vouchers, is a childcare voucher provider which distributes 100% of its profit for social good.

Previously Nora worked in the women's sector and is very passionate about addressing the childcare challenges which face parents when it comes to employment. As Policy and Information Manager, she manages the work of the charity which helps parents get back into work by providing advice and guidance through its childcare information services. Their expertise in childcare and work related issues helps parents, employers, employees and childcare providers.

My day usually starts with my arrival at the office anytime between 7.30am and 8.00am. I am a keen cyclist so I am taking advantage of the arrival of Spring and commute to work on my bike most days.

My first port of call when I arrive is to the coffee pot. After checking my emails, diary, and my To Do' list, my working day commences. I manage a team of four and we work to provide information, advice and support through our childcare information services.

We are really excited about a new service that we launched at the start of the year— The Childcare Benefits Advisory Service. Jennie and Chris, the two Childcare Benefits Advisors, provide their specialist knowledge on childcare and work related issues to parents. We recognise that parents are not always aware of all the support that is available to them.

As part of the service we carry out benefits assessments so parents can make informed choices on the impact of starting a job after a period of unemployment, or reducing their hours of work, or are struggling to meet their childcare costs. Whatever their scenario it's important for parents to be aware of potential help and support that may be available to them. We are currently working on a piece of research that we hope to launch in Stormont in the middle of May. It's a comparative study on childcare policies in the four regions of the UK. We hope that through our research we can lobby for a better deal on childcare services for parents in Northern Ireland. What is great about my job is that no two days are the same. Marie, the Chief Executive, operates an open door policy and is extremely passionate about the work of the Charity. It's a very challenging and busy role, but I wouldn't have it any other way. It is also very rewarding. We are extremely proud of

the success of our Childcare SOS (Save our Savings) campaign. Through the strength of the campaign and the thousands of parents who supported us, we convinced Gordon Brown to retract on his proposal to phase out the childcare voucher scheme. It was a fantastic demonstration that parent power prevails.

Equality of opportunity has always been an important strand in my work. There is a saying find a job you love and you will never work another day in your life, well I consider myself to be very fortunate in that I have found a role that I am extremely passionate about and find it hugely rewarding.

For more details of the work of Employers For Childcare you can call Freephone: 0800 028 6538.

Ulster Star