I welcome the opportunity to respond to the issues raised by Deputies Seán Kenny, Ellis and Broughan. I had an opportunity of discussing the matter briefly with Deputy Seán Kenny on the day following my appointment last Friday.
I would like to acknowledge the importance of the services delivered by Darndale Belcamp Integrated Childcare Service Limited to some 260 children across the areas of Darndale, Belcamp and Moatview. The centre was established in January 2001 and has evolved into the largest crèche nationally.
In 2013, the Darndale Belcamp Integrated Childcare Service incurred expenditure of €2.022 million and received funding amounting to €1.96 million. This resulted in a deficit of some €62,000. I am aware that the centre has been experiencing cash-flow difficulties recently and that this has given rise to concerns regarding its future operation.
In order to assist the centre, the Child and Family Agency recently prepaid funding due in May and June. I want to acknowledge the support of the agency in this regard. I would expect that the agency will be open to providing some further pre-payments to the centre if this is of assistance in seeking to resolve underlying issues.
The Child and Family Agency is one of a number of State agencies which provide funding to support the provision of services at the centre. The level of support provided is significant and is being provided at a time when all service providers are faced with particular challenges arising from the need to restore order to our public finances. The Child and Family Agency provided funding of almost €360,000 last year.
My Department is responsible for funding three child care schemes, including the community child care subvention programme, the child care education and training support programme - which are both administered by Pobal - and the early childhood care and education programme which is administered directly by my Department. Funding to the centre under these schemes amounted to over €550,000 in 2013. This represents total funding in excess of €900,000 from my Department's Vote.
Funding is paid to the service in respect of actual attendance of children under the various programmes and funding is paid according to national capitation rates paid to all pre-school services. The Department does not provide a grant to the service directly for salaries or administration in any way.
I have asked my officials to meet urgently with the Child and Family Agency and with Pobal, which administers a number of child care schemes on behalf of my Department, to explore all possible solutions to the current difficulties, which I acknowledge are real.
My predecessor, the Minister, Deputy Frances Fitzgerald, recently advised the centre that, in her view, the overall provision of early years services in the area might usefully be considered in seeking solutions to the current difficulties. I concur with this view as we need to ensure all available resources to support these key services are maximised. All services in receipt of State funding have had to generate efficiency savings and, while I appreciate the challenges involved, it is important that all such avenues are fully explored.
I mentioned the centre incurred a deficit of €62,000, partly achieved through successful fund-raising. Fund-raising projections for this year are not as strong and there is a risk of a projected deficit of up to €200,000. While I acknowledge the need to avoid such a deficit, the centre's income projections show income of €1.8 million continues to be available. With such a level of financial support, it should be possible to work constructively to achieve continued services and avoid the closure scenario the Deputies outlined. The funders will be available to support this process. My Department is giving the matter priority attention. I hope a resolution to the current difficulties can be found within the total resources available to the centre and to support the provision of early years services generally in the area.