Tuesday, 2 March 2004

Questions (303, 304)

Róisín Shortall

Question:

389 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the details of all child care funding allocated under the national development plan with details of the location, type of service, number of children and amount allocated in each case in each year since 2000. [6863/04]

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Written answers (Question to Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform)

The total funding committed under the Equal Opportunities Child Care Programme 2000-2006, up to 28 February 2004, is more than €254.3 million. More than 2,000 grants have been awarded to date to child care providers and community groups which will, when fully drawn down, lead to the creation of 28,002 new child care places and will also support more than 26,500 existing places.

It is not possible in the timescale available to provide the level of detail requested by the Deputy. A detailed report containing the data requested will be supplied directly to the Deputy and will be lodged in the Oireachtas Library at the earliest opportunity.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

390 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform further to Parliamentary Questions Nos. 284 of 18 February 2004 and 469 of 24 February 2004, the reason he will not inform her of the timescale for the review of the capital programme for child care being undertaken by his Department; and when decisions regarding funding applications will be resumed. [6864/04]

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Every effort is being made to expedite the programme review of the capital elements of the Equal Opportunities Child Care Programme to ensure that all capital projects which have already received grant allocations will proceed. The Deputy will appreciate that more than 1,100 capital grants have been allocated already totalling more than €114 million. Many of these projects are either awaiting planning permission or the completion of tender processes before reasonable assurance can be taken that they will proceed. In the event that a project does not proceed, the funding can be decommitted and made available to another project.

At the same time, an extensive review of child care provision on the ground is taking place to identify obvious service gaps, the filling of which will be a priority using the remaining capital funding which currently amounts to some €30 million, not including decommitted funding, and possible funding transfers from other elements of the programme following the current review. The careful analysis of this information is essential if the best use is to be made of the significant capital funding being provided by the Government to support the child care needs of parents who may be in employment, education or training. I hope the review work will be completed before Easter, following which the critical appraisal of all applications against the programme criteria will lead to the allocation of further capital funding.

I remind the Deputy that the Equal Opportunities Child Care Programme 2000-2006 is a seven year development programme. The progress of the programme was commented upon very favourably by the mid-term evaluators of both the regional operational programmes and the National Development Plan 2000 — 2006. Expenditure under the programme must take place in a planned manner and covers the period to end 2007. Accordingly, grant approvals must take place in a carefully planned manner to ensure that the programme can meet its financial commitments at all times.