As part of Budget 2013 I, together with my colleague, the Minister for Social Protection, was pleased to announce a new After-school Childcare initiative which will be targeted at low-income parents availing of employment opportunities. Lack of access to affordable, quality childcare is a significant barrier to many low income and disadvantaged families seeking to avail of work opportunities. This initiative will provide an important support measure to enable parents to avail of job opportunities. This 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 initiative is expected to receive full year funding of €14 million to provide over 6,000 after-school places for children attending primary school in order to support parents to take up employment. This funding has been made possible through savings from the Vote of the Department of Social Protection.
Eligibility for the new After-school Childcare programme is determined by the Department of Social Protection. Officials from the Department of Social Protection and my Department are continuing in close collaboration on the operation of the programme. The first pilot phase has commenced. Up to 500 childcare places are available with Department of Social Protection local offices in Tralee, Mullingar, Dundalk, Cork City, Finglas, Kings Inn and Limerick City participating. The second phase of the pilot will be rolled out in July, with the full roll-out of the programme in September 2013, to coincide with the new school year.
For the pilot phase of the programme, those service providers currently in contract with the DCYA in respect of Childcare Education and Training Support (CETS) were offered the opportunity to provide for the new School Age Childcare service, by way of amendment to their existing contractual arrangements. Service providers not currently in contract with the DCYA and seeking to join the programme can apply to participate, with effect from September 2013, in the normal manner.
As you know the emphasis now in relation to all childcare support programmes is the delivery of easily accessible, affordable and quality childcare provision. The pilot programmes will assist both Departments in determining the procedural, quality and practical issues that require attention prior to the finalisation of the programme.