I propose to take Questions Nos. 36 and 45 together.
The Department of Children and Youth Affairs was established on 3 June 2011. In 2011, the full year allocation for the programmes implemented by the Department, amounted to just over €417 million, of which €406.3 million was current funding. In 2012, the full gross year allocation for the Department stands at just over €408 million, of which €400.1 million will be current funding. This represents a 2% reduction in funding which is significantly less than reductions in some other areas of Government expenditure demonstrating the priority attached to programmes and services for children and young people.
Since May of this year, my officials have been engaged in the Comprehensive Review of Expenditure process and have scrutinised every area of expenditure as part of this process. The Review was used as an opportunity to critically examine and inform the Department's new structures and priorities, based on streamlined and effective use of limited resources. The challenge for all of those who work in the public service today or are funded from the public purse is to maximise policy outcomes and service delivery.
Under the Comprehensive Review of Expenditure savings of some €16.5 million in current funding have been agreed for next year. However, this figure reduces to €4.5 million when account is taken of the fact that additional funding has also been provided to meet demographic pressures arising under the free Pre-School Year in Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) programme and to protect the universality of that programme. The reform process will continue over 2012-2014 and the projected current funding allocations for my Department will be sustained at levels of €382 million in 2013 and €373 million in 2014. While the need to reduce expenditure will be challenging, I am satisfied that the reform of programmes and schemes identified under the Comprehensive Review of Expenditure will be implemented in a way which generates efficiencies and improvements in outcomes, within the resources available.
As I have said, the Government has made a very significant commitment to maintaining the universality of the free Pre-School Year in Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) programme. The Programme for Government commits to maintaining the ECCE programme and indeed developing early childhood care and education as resources allow. Given the budgetary constraints we are facing, I am very pleased to be able to say that the programme is being maintained as a universal and free pre-school year. The universal nature of this programme is critical for childhood development and providing every child with early learning and preparation for school. I am delighted to say that the programme has been maintained on a universal and free basis. I believe this is an investment in our country's future prosperity. We will recover from our economic difficulties. In time, too, the generation of children benefiting from this programme will repay our investment by proving the long term value of investment in early education.
Due to demographic pressures, which mean that the number of children eligible for the programme will increase by some 3,000, the cost of the programme is expected to rise to almost €176 million in 2012, an increase of almost €10 million, and this funding has been provided for.
In terms of the main areas of savings, the key areas where savings will be made in Vote 40, are as follows:
In addition to the Early Childhood Care and Education Scheme the other two main programmes of support for childcare operated by my Department are the Childcare Education and Training Support (CETS) programme and the Community Childcare Subvention (CCS) programme. All three programmes are being retained but some revisions are being made to certain payment rates and subvention levels under each programme.
Under the Early Childhood Care and Education Programme the staff to child ratios will be increased in September 2012, from a ratio of 1: 10 to a ratio of 1: 11. As the pre-school year is targeted at children in the year before they commence primary school, the increase is not expected to impact on quality. The Child Care (Pre-School Services) (No.2) Regulations 2006 will be amended to accommodate the change which will apply to services for the duration of the ECCE provision only. The increase will give the majority of pre-school services some flexibility to manage a modest reduction in the capitation rates which I am introducing from September next. A reduction of €2 per week, approximately 3%, will be made to the capitation rates paid to providers. The reduction in capitation rates will achieve savings of €2.2m in 2012 and €5m from 2013 onwards. Notwithstanding these reductions the funds available under this programme in 2012 will increase by €9.8 million or 6 per cent.
The Childcare Education and Training Support programme provides qualifying FAS and VEC students with free childcare places for the duration of their course. The Department pays childcare services €170 per week for each full-time place contracted under the programme, in some 1,600 community and commercial facilities. This is the only category of parents who currently pay no contribution to the cost of their childcare requirements. From September 2012, the Department will reduce the weekly price paid to services to €145 per full-time place. The services will be allowed to charge a weekly fee of not more than €25 per full-time childcare place. In practice it is expected that the charge passed on to parents will be less than the €25 reduction due to cost efficiencies and competition on fees.
Under the Community Childcare Subvention Programme, parents who have a social welfare entitlement or are in receipt of Family Income Supplement, qualify for subvention rates of up to €100 per week for full daycare. The parents must be using a community service to avail of the programme. Payment is made to the service and allows community providers to charge reduced fees to eligible parents. From September 2012, the higher subvention rate of €100 will be reduced by €5 to €95. To qualify for the higher rate it will be necessary to have an entitlement to a medical card as well as a social welfare entitlement.
A 5% reduction will be made in 2012 to the operational costs of the Family Support Agency and to the Family Resource Centres programme. This will yield savings of almost €0.9 million in 2012. In addition, savings of over €1.2 million will be made in 2012 under the Counselling Grants Scheme which is administered by the Agency.
While no reduction is being made to the Education Welfare Service operated by the National Education Welfare Board (NEWB), my Department, together with the Board, will complete a major review of the School Completion Programme by mid 2012 to identify operational efficiencies and achieve greater integration with the other NEWB programmes. A new and more rationalised programme will be introduced in September 2012 which will allow savings of €2 million to be achieved in 2012.
A review of all of the Department's Youth Programmes will also be undertaken in 2012. This will be informed by the new Youth Policy Framework and will result in a restructuring of the programmes and their delivery models into a more cohesive and effective set of programmes from 2013. This approach will allow for savings to be achieved while still maintaining effective youth programmes and maximising outcomes. Pending the outcome of the review, in 2012 a reduction in funding ranging between 5% and 10% will applied to a number of the programmes. This will result in savings of some €4.6 million.
A number of pilot projects and programmes which were limited in time, are due to come to an end over the period 2012-2014. While the outcomes from these projects and programmes will, where possible, be mainstreamed into programmes implemented by my Department as well as by agencies involved in the provision of services for children and families, significant additional savings will arise. It is also my intention to use the annual capital allocation of €8 million to continue and enhance the youth café programme, which was implemented during 2010-2011, to maintain the funding support for Parent and Toddler groups, and to establish a new, capital maintenance programme for community childcare facilities. As alcohol free venues for young people, Youth Cafés will form an important part of the Government's Strategy to combat alcohol misuse. The Parent and Toddler small grant scheme is a valuable resource for parents in disadvantaged areas and the maintenance programme for community childcare facilities is intended to assist services with the funding of essential repairs.
In terms of my priorities over the period 2012-2015, in addition to reviewing the current delivery of programmes to improve outcomes, it is my intention to progress a number of issues as a matter of urgent priority. In 2012, the Constitutional Referendum on Children's Rights will be held. I am pleased to note that an allocation of €3 million has been provided in Vote 40 in 2012 to meet the costs which will arise.
Work is also underway to establish the new Child and Family Services Agency which will operate from 2013 under the remit of my Department. I hope to see this process completed during 2012 as I believe it will provide a new and coherent structure to meet the needs of children and their families. While the resources for the new agency are currently located within the Vote of the Health Service Executive, an additional provision to assist the establishment of the agency has been made within Vote 40. This amounts to €16.2 million in 2012 and will increase to €5 million from 2013.