Written Answers. - Grant Payments.

Jim Higgins

Question:

868 Mr. Higgins (Mayo) asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the reason for the undue delay in the processing of applications under the equal opportunities child-care programme, 2000-06. [19402/00]

There has been no undue delay in the processing of applications under the equal opportunities child care programme.

As the Deputy may be aware, child care has been highlighted as a priority for investment in the national development plan with £250 million being allocated under my Department's equal opportunities child care programme, 2000 to 2006, to support the provision of child care in the voluntary, community and private sectors over the next seven years. This represents the most significant investment in child care by any Government in the history of the State and supports measures which will have a social inclusion and equal opportunities focus.

In April last, I launched a number of child care measures which will be supported under my Department's equal opportunities child care programme, 2000 to 2006, including capital grants for community based groups and not-for-profit organisations for the establishment, renovation or upgrading of child care facilities;

staffing grants to support staffing costs for community based child care facilities;

capital grants for self-employed child care providers catering for not more than 20 children at any one time, to build, renovate or upgrade child care facilities.

Over 4,400 application forms have been requested from my Department from community based groups, private child care providers and other interested parties. A total of 304 completed application forms have been received for assessment and appraisal. In addition, over 2,000 copies of the booklet, Childcare Funding in Ireland, have been distributed to interested parties.

In the short period since April, I have already allocated funding with a total value of over £8.34 million to 94 child care providers nationwide. This funding will support over 1,745 current child care places, lead to the establishment of over 1,200 additional child care places and support hundreds of child care staffing positions. I hope to be in a position to make further allocations of funding within the next week.

We are actively encouraging applicants to complete their application forms and to return them to my Department for prompt processing. There is no closing date for receipt of completed applications for child care grant funding which will further encourage more applications under the scheme.