Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Questions (563)

Colm Keaveney

Question:

563. Deputy Colm Keaveney asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs her plans to provide for after school care funded or part funded from the Exchequer; if she is considering sub-letting, or some arrangement, school facilities to private operators to accommodate this care; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12598/13]

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Written answers (Question to Children)

As part of Budget 2013, together with my colleague, the Minister for Social Protection, I was pleased to announce a new After-School Childcare initiative, to be managed jointly by both Departments, which will be targeted at low-income families and supporting parents availing of employment opportunities.

Lack of access to affordable, quality childcare can be a barrier to low income and disadvantaged families when seeking to avail of work and training or educational opportunities. This new initiative, which is expected to receive full year funding of €14 million, will support parents to take up employment by providing over 6,000 quality after-school places for children attending primary school. This initiative is in line with the Government's overall strategy to support parents of low income families to take up employment and demonstrates how Departments are working together to deliver the Government's agenda on promoting employment and supporting children's development.

The after-school places, as with those funded under the Childcare Education and Training Support (CETS) and Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) programmes, are expected to be available in both commercial and community providers.

Officials in both my own Department and the Department of Social Protection are currently working to finalise the details of the after-school scheme and its operational arrangements including such matters as accountability and eligibility, and responsibility for same. As soon as this work has been completed, further information will be made available.

It is intended to encourage the provision of after school services in primary school settings. I understand that it is the policy of the Department of Education and Skills, who have responsibility for primary school education, to encourage schools to share their facilities with community groups and organisations. My Department also favours the location of pre-school facilities and after-school facilities on or adjacent to primary school grounds where possible.

However, the vast majority of national schools are not owned by the State and while I understand that the Trustees and Boards of Management of these schools have been encouraged to respond positively to requests for school facilities to be shared, their right to prioritise the interests of the principal school users must be recognised. Therefore any decision in relation to the use of school premises for an after-school or pre-school programme ultimately lies with the relevant Board or Trustees and my Department would not have a role in this matter.