I propose to take Questions Nos. 374, 430, 469, 478 and 481 together.
My Department provides funding to VECs to assist towards the child care expenses of participants in VTOS, Youthreach and senior Traveller centre programmes. The financial provision nationally in 2002 for child care assistance to participants on these programme was €3,019,000. The corresponding provision for 2003 was €2,984,204.
The estimate by VECs of their needs for child care funding in 2002 exceeded the amount available. Additional funds became available towards the end of 2002, which allowed the Department to allocate supplementary grants in respect of child care assistance. Payout to VECs for 2002 was €4,736,831. In 2003, 27 VECs, including those serving the City of Dublin, County Kerry and County Waterford, requested special assistance by way of additional funding for their child care services. These VECs were asked to indicate their minimal requirements to maintain the service. Following a review of budgetary provision across the range of further education programmes and supports, it was found possible to redesignate certain elements of funding to enable supplementary grants to be allocated for child care. Payout to VECs for 2003 was €4,821,759.00.
The administration of grants to participants in VTOS, Youthreach and senior Traveller programmes is a matter for individual VECs. A working group comprising representatives of my Department and the Irish Vocational Education Association has been established to review the criteria for the allocation of grants for child care for 2004 and into the future with a view to making more efficient use of the funds available in the light of increasing demand. Grants to VECs to assist towards child care expenses of participants in VTOS, Youthreach and senior Traveller programmes in 2004 will be considered in the light of the provision in the revised Estimates.