Written answers

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Department of Children and Youth Affairs

Child Care Costs

Photo of Willie O'DeaWillie O'Dea (Limerick City, Fianna Fail)
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286. To ask the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs in view of the cost of childcare in this country, if he will alleviate some of the burden on commercial rates on the childcare sector; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46880/14]

Photo of James ReillyJames Reilly (Dublin North, Fine Gael)
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I am aware of the high cost of early childhood care and education services in this country. The Government did announce in Budget 2015 an increase of €5 per month in child benefit for each eligible child. This measure brings the monthly payment per child to €135 and will benefit more than 600,000 families.

My Department provides annual funding in the region of €260 million to the childcare sector to support a number of childcare programmes. These programmes include the Community Childcare Subvention programme, the Early Childhood Care and Education programme and a number of labour activation initiatives under the Training and Employment Childcare programmes. The programmes provide direct support to more than 4,200 childcare services. This investment ensures that many parents who would otherwise not be in a position to avail of pre-school care and education for their children are able to avail of quality services.

Despite the budgetary situation that prevailed in recent years the Government has maintained the funding necessary to support the childcare programmes and has introduced new initiatives to meet the changing circumstances, particularly in regard to the improved employment opportunities in the economy. As funding becomes available, I would hope that the capitation rates for all programmes could be increased to provide further support.

Following concerns expressed by childcare providers throughout the country, the issue of commercial rates on pre-school services was raised with the previous Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government. The concerns of childcare providers in relation to commercial rates were also brought to the attention of officials in the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform. Officials from my Department recently met with the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform in the context of the Valuation Bill currently going through the Houses of the Oireachtas and discussed the issue of commercial rates on pre-school services.

The Government has recently approved an amendment to the Bill to exempt not-for-profit childcare providers from rates. Private commercial childcare providers are subject to commercial rates except those whose funding is provided only through capitation provided under the Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) programme. The new Bill does not provide for any changes in relation to the issue of commercial rates on private childcare services.

I must emphasise that my Department has no role in determining exemptions to commercial rates and this issue is a matter for the Department of Finance who have responsibility for fiscal policy.


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