Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Questions (204)

Denis Naughten


204. Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the steps she intends to take to address the lack of availability of after-school services for children; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22386/13]

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Written answers (Question to Children)

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. The pilot programme will assist both Departments in determining the procedural, quality and practical issues that require attention prior to the finalisation of the programme.

The programme will provide €35 per week per child enrolled in a participating service for after school services and this payment will rise to €100 per week during holiday periods when parents will be availing of full day care. A further €20 per week will be paid by the parent to the provider in both instances.

The new After-school Childcare programme will further augment my Department's programme of childcare supports for low income families. These include the Community Childcare Subvention and the Childcare Education and Training Support programmes, both of which provide subsidised childcare for low income parents, including qualifying parents who are on approved VEC and FÁS education and training courses. In 2013, my Department expects to spend in the region of €70 million on these programmes, supporting over 30,000 childcare places.