Written answers

Wednesday, 10 July 2019

Department of Children and Youth Affairs

Childcare Services Funding

Photo of Brendan SmithBrendan Smith (Cavan-Monaghan, Fianna Fail)
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71. To ask the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs her plans to increase the level of grant aid to assist in the provision of childcare facilities both for community and private childcare providers; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [29899/19]

Photo of Brendan SmithBrendan Smith (Cavan-Monaghan, Fianna Fail)
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86. To ask the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs her plans to increase the level of grant aid to assist in the provision of childcare places; if her attention has been drawn to the fact that there is a need in some communities to undertake large scale projects either in the expansion of existing childcare facilities or in the provision of new childcare facilities; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [29897/19]

Photo of Katherine ZapponeKatherine Zappone (Dublin South West, Independent)
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I propose to take Questions Nos. 71 and 86 together.

I am committed to ensuring that early learning and care and school age childcare is affordable, accessible and of a high quality. As the Deputy is aware, good progress has been made in this regard, with an increase in investment in this area of 117% over the past four budgets (increasing from €260m in 2015 to nearly €574m in Budget 2019).  

Within these four budgets, a significant amount of exchequer funding was made available for childcare providers, whether private or community / not for profit organisations, to apply for Early Learning and Care and School Age Childcare capital grants. Capital funding is aimed at increasing the capacity of existing services, creating new services, and maintaining and improving existing services.

Each year my Department reviews the capital programmes as a whole and determines the priorities for Early Learning and Care and School Age Capital grants. This consideration necessarily has regard to many factors, including the financial resources available.

In 2019, my Department focused the Early Learning and Care and School Age Childcare Capital programme on the expansion of early learning and care places for 0-3 year olds, and school age childcare places where this is most needed.

The capital strands have been made available to achieve the strategic priorities for 2019 as determined by my Department, having regard to the funding available. These were developed using analysis of the current state of the childcare sector, learnings from previous capital programmes and feedback and input from stakeholders, including childcare providers and Pobal.

The approved Early Learning and School Age Capital funding for 2019 was made available to childcare centres, crèches and other childcare facilities across three strands, as follows:

Strand A (Early Learning and Care): New places for 0-3 year olds

- €3.7mtotal approved (€50k max. grant)

- 87applications approved for funding

- 1,321new 0-3 places to be created: 205 0-1places, 1,1161-3 places

Strand B(Early Learning and Care): Fire safety improvements (community only)

- €0.3mtotal approved (€15k max. grant)

- 33 applications approved for funding

Strand C(School Age): New places for school age children

- €2.2mtotal approved (€20k max. grant)

- 118 applications approved for funding

- 2,308 new school age places to be created.

The capital funding has been awarded following the completion of a very competitive application and appraisal process. 

Pobal have notified all applicants of the outcomes of the Capital decisions. 

In addition to the annual capital programme, I negotiated that childcare be identified as a strategic priority in the National Development Plan (2018-2027). €250m in capital funding was secured for childcare under the Plan. This represents the kind of large scale investment in the sector by the State that has not been seen since the National Childcare Investment Programme (NCIP) that concluded in 2010.

This investment will be essential to respond to the increased capacity we expect as the new National Childcare Scheme is introduced. The NCS will radically change how this country supports the cost to parents of early learning and care and school age childcare.

Research is on-going to determine areas of specific need that the NDP funding will address when it comes on stream in the coming years. The exact shape and priorities of this funding is currently being developed and information will be made publicas it becomes available.

Photo of Ruth CoppingerRuth Coppinger (Dublin West, Solidarity)
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73. To ask the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs if assistance will be provided to two childcare facilities providing childcare services to up to 120 families that may have to relocate during renovations at a centre (details supplied). [29692/19]

Photo of Katherine ZapponeKatherine Zappone (Dublin South West, Independent)
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Hartstown Montessori and Little Sparrows Preschool are private childcare services which operate on the grounds of Hartstown Community Centre. I understand that remedial works are required in respect of key elements of the building. I also understand that the provision of childcare by these services may be disrupted while the renovations are carried out.

I would strongly recommend that the services contact Fingal Childcare Committee to seek support. DCYA funds 30 Childcare Committees across the country to support providers and parents. The local childcare Committee is an important source of expertise and information for providers and their local knowledge often proves helpful in addressing challenges.

Additionally, my Department oversees an integrated Case Management system operated by Pobal in cooperation with the local Childcare Committee.  A dedicated team assess services facing sustainability challenges, and may be able to offer advice and non-financial support in respect of the specific circumstances reported by these services. I would therefore recommend that the services in question also contact Pobal. However, I do note that while my Department does provide funding to assist childcare providers through specific challenges to their sustainability, such as emergency relocations, these supports are currently only available to community not for profit services.

In the event that the services are unable to remain open while renovations are carried out, the local Childcare Committee will offer assistance to parents in finding alternative places for their children should this be required.

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