Thursday, 1 April 2021
Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth
253. To ask the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth if his attention has been drawn to the lack of provision of childcare services for babies aged 6 to 12 months in the Dublin 1, 3, 7 and 9 areas, respectively that have developed since Pobal published its Early Years Sector Profile report in November 2019; his plans to conduct updated research into the capacity of existing childcare provision in the same areas; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17674/21]
Supply of, and demand for, early learning and care and school-age childcare places is monitored annually through the Early Years Sector Profile report. This survey is conducted by Pobal on behalf of the Department.
Published data from the 2018/2019 programme year indicates that existing childcare provision, in general, meets current needs nationwide in terms of capacity whilst recognising that small pockets of under supply may exist within this.
Nationally, capacity and vacant places increased year on year from 2017/2018 (5%) to 2018/2019 (6%). A breakdown of data is available at a local authority level in Dublin, including Dublin City and Fingal. Dublin city had a vacancy rate of 4% in 2018/2019, no change from 4% in 2017/2018. Fingal had a vacancy rate of 5% in 2018/2019, up from 4% in 2017/2018. My Department continues to monitor this data closely.
My Department also funds 30 City and County Childcare Committees across the country. Part of their role is to advise my Department on capacity issues.
A key policy objective of my Department is to improve affordability, accessibility and quality of Early Learning and Care (ELC) and School-Age Childcare (SAC). A 141% increase in investment over the last number of years has led to a doubling in the number of children receiving free or subsidised early learning and care and school-age childcare. It has also supported the sector to increase the number of places available.
First 5, the ten-year whole-of-Government strategy for babies, young children and their families pledges to build on this progress. Among key strategic actions in First 5 is a commitment to 'maintain and extend the supply of high-quality publicly subsidised ELC and SAC to best serve the developmental needs of babies and young children, ensuring that it also reflects the needs and preferences of parents and families'.
To deliver on this strategic action, a range of actions are under way, including an update of the National Planning Guidelines for the development of early learning and care and school-age childcare settings, the extension of regulation to all paid, non-relative childminders on a phased basis and the development of a strategic capital investment plan to deliver large-scale capital investment under Project 2040. The development of a new funding model for EELC and SAC also seeks to address issues of accessibility. First 5 also commits to strengthen capacity to accurately forecast supply and demand for early learning and care and school-age childcare.
Owing to COVID-19, the publication of Pobal’s Annual Early Years Sector Profile 2019/2020 has been delayed. It is expected that the report will be published in mid 2021.
Planning for the 2020/2021 survey administration is underway, and these data will continue to provide a key input into the Department’s work in this area.