Friday, 1 July 2005
Child Care Services.
Cuirim fáilte roimh an Aire. My Adjournment matter is simple. The recent announcement to allocate €45 million to child care sounds like a lot of money but, by the time it is divided up around the country, it will be disbursed before long. Only two child care facilities received allocations in Carlow-Kilkenny, in Kells, County Kilkenny and in Loughlinbridge. I congratulate Loughlinbridge on receiving its allocation of more than €700,000. This was a reflection of the hard work done there over the past two years. A lot of work remains to be done. It will be gratifying to see such a child care facility in Loughlinbridge.
However, as in other areas of life, there are winners and losers. Shanagarry Community Childcare Limited was unfortunate in not receiving funding in this year's allocation. The Minister might clarify the reason for this lack of success. It will, I hope, reapply next year, in which case it will learn from its experience to ensure it receives funding.
I wish to thank the Senator for raising this matter and for affording me the opportunity to update the House on the important issue of child care. I will refer specifically to Shanagarry Community Childcare Limited.
The Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform told me that an application for capital grant assistance from Shanagarry Community Childcare Limited was submitted some time ago. As the Senator may be aware, each application for funding undergoes a thorough assessment by Area Development Management Limited, ADM, which is engaged to carry out the day-to-day administration of the EOCP. Once ADM makes an assessment, applications are then considered by the EOCP programme appraisal committee, chaired by the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform. Following the appraisal committee's recommendation, the Minister makes a final decision regarding funding.
The Shanagarry application was assessed by ADM and subsequently considered by the programme appraisal committee in December 2004. At that time, the programme appraisal committee was unable to recommend that the project be funded. Issues were raised around possible duplication of services and the displacement of other local services, as the proposed project location is within three miles of another child care facility which has already received funding under the EOCP. Consequently, the Minister was not in a position to provide funding on that occasion.
The group was informed of his decision by the child care directorate in December 2004. In February, this decision was appealed by the Shanagarry group. Following receipt of an appeal, ADM was requested to reassess the application by taking account of any additional information provided by the group in support of its application. With the completion of this assessment, the application is being considered further by the programme appraisal committee. I understand that the reappraisal of the Shanagarry project is in its final stages, following which a recommendation will be made to the Minister, who will then be in a position to make a decision on the matter. The group will be informed of the outcome in due course.
Every effort is being made to achieve a fair geographical spread throughout the appraisal and approvals process. Sustainability of services and avoidance of duplication are key considerations. To date, County Carlow has benefitted from €6.3 million under the child care programme and has had 24 capital grants approved to establish either new or enhanced community based not for profit or private child care facilities. The county has also benefited from 29 staffing grants to groups with a focus on disadvantage. This funding to child care providers in County Carlow is leading to the creation of 545 new centre based child care places and to the support of 493 existing places. Carlow County Childcare Committee also receives annual funding to support its developmental work, including special measures to support child minders, whose services are often the chosen child care option for Irish parents.
The Senator may be aware that the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform recently launched a new report and a new initiative to encourage the increased provision of school age child care in order to support the needs of parents of primary school children. It is fair to emphasise that the Equal Opportunities Childcare Programme 2001-06 has been central to the development of child care in Ireland over the past five years. I hope that Senator Browne will acknowledge the progress made to date under the programme in County Carlow and across the country. I will advise the Minister of the necessity of informing the Senator of the outcome of the deliberations on the appeal.
This has been one of the better Adjournment replies I have thus far received. While the exact geographical distance may be three miles, a mountain may be situated in the middle. It might be three miles as the bird flies. Department officials might bring their measuring tapes to examine roads. As far as I am aware, a mountain lies between the two places in question.