Written Answers. - Child Care Facilities.
255 Mr. B. Smith asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the proposals there are to increase capital grants for community and private child care facilities as outlined in the programme for Government. [15230/02]
256 Mr. B. Smith asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if funding will be provided towards staffing costs for private childcare providers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15231/02]
I propose to take Questions Nos. 255 and 256 together.
As the Deputy is aware, the Equal Opportunities Childcare Programme 2000 to 2006, makes grant assistance available under a range of measures to develop child care services through out Ireland. Funding for the programme is part of the national development plan and is funded by both the European Union and the Exchequer. To date we have committed more than €137 million in grants to support the provision and development of child care. Of this amount more than €118 million has been committed to approximately 1,200 projects on the ground and this funding will support almost 19,000 existing childcare places and lead to the creation of 16,000 new child care places. A further €18 million has been committed to support quality improvement projects under the programme.
Grants for child care services are available as part of my Departments equal opportunities childcare programme under capital, staffing and quality Improvement sub-measures. The grants available under the squal opportunities childcare programme were developed in line with the recommendations of the Expert Working Group on Childcare established under Partnership 2000. There is no set limit for capital grants to community based-not for profit groups. However, each project is evaluated under the criteria of the programme with particular reference to the focus the project has on disadvantage and as such there is no guarantee of 100% funding for a given project.
Under the programme, capital grants, for the first time, have been made available for self-employed – private child care providers for building, renovation or upgrading of child care facilities and for the purchase of permanently based child care equipment. These grants are subject to a maximum amount of €50,790. To date, I have committed funding of €12.86 million to approximately 400 self employed-private sector childcare providers at an average grant of €32,000 per applicant.
Under the programme, staffing grants are available for community-based not-for-profit organisations and are targeted towards services which operate in areas of disadvantage or services which have particular focus on disadvantage and as such could not operate without State assistance. In the case of private sector child care provision, these services are operated for profit and are expected to generate income to sustain the enterprise. Funding by State authorities within the EU is restricted in terms of the level of aid that can be provided to private enterprise. This is especially relevant in the case of supports for staffing or running costs in private enterprises. Taking these considerations into account, a staffing grant scheme for private sector child care provision has not been made available under the programme.
An Agreed Programme for Government includes commitments to: increase the capital grants for community and private child care facilities; seek to streamline the capital grant application process for child care capital grants and increase the grant limits for all providers, subject to overall compliance with EU state aids rules. I have asked the child care directorate of my Department to examine the commitments in An Agreed Programme for Government and to make recommendations to me in relation to these com mitments. Following this examination I will be in a position to decide what, if any, changes can be made to the programme.