Thursday, 22 February 2018
Child Care Services Provision
11. To ask the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the extent to which she is satisfied regarding the availability of child care facilities in view of the increasing necessity for both parents to be at work and to meet the requirements of one-parent families; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8963/18]
My question relates to the extent to which child care and support facilities are available given the ever-increasing demand arising from the fact that both parents may be required to go to work and also the requirements of one-parent families.
A key priority for me as Minister for Children and Youth Affairs is to ensure access to high quality and affordable child care. I have made capital funding available immediately for this purpose and I have also secured €250 million for child care facilities under the national development plan in the years ahead.
Each year Pobal conducts research on behalf of my Department to examine a number of factors related to child care services in Ireland, including capacity. The most recent early years sector profile for 2016 to 2017, indicates that existing child care provision continues to meet the needs of the nation's parents in terms of capacity. The survey process which informs the sector profile will re-engage with child care providers again in the coming months to provide a further updated picture. In the meantime, my Department continues to advance a number of measures to ensure that parents can access high quality child care.
In 2018, I secured €6.86 million for capital investment in child care. Under the early years and school age child care capital programmes, providers can apply for funding for new child care places, with maximum grants available of up to €50,000.
What is happening?
The application process for these capital schemes is well under way and I encourage providers to contact their local city or county childcare committee with any questions they might have about this process.
The affordable childcare scheme will transform affordability for families. The legislation passed Second Stage recently. It will enable more parents to work if they so wish and it will increase female labour market participation leading to increased demand for child care places.
Under the national planning framework and the national development plan that we published last week, I ensured that child care was identified as one of the nation's strategic priorities and I secured €250 million in additional funding to expand child care capacity, which was the focus of the Deputy's question, over the duration of the plan.
I thank the Minister for her comprehensive reply. Is she satisfied that the extent of the reviews currently provided for and taking place will be sufficient to alert her and her Department to the increasing demand in that area? Arising from that, I ask her to comment on her continuing ability to be able to respond positively.
I am satisfied. I have identified a process whereby my Department, working with Pobal and child care providers, carries out ongoing monitoring and analysis of the expectation of demand in terms of additional capacity or child care places. In the context of the future and work in preparing for the national planning framework in the national development plan, I have engaged in quite a bit of discussion with my Department. It has agreed with me that we will conduct some additional research on future projections, especially in light of a population increase over the next number of years, how we can determine more fully from a research perspective what that demand will be and how to ensure we will be ready for it.