The Department of Children and Youth Affairs was established on 3 June 2011 and the annual spend on childcare related programmes has been in the region of 0.16 per cent of GDP for the years 2011 and 2012. This expenditure does not include expenditure under other early intervention programmes or by other Departments on early year’s programmes and services and therefore does not represent the full extent of State expenditure.
My Department supports the provision of early childhood care and education by providing annually in the region of €260 million to provide for three childcare support programmes that ensure that more than 100,000 children have access to quality and affordable childcare. I have succeeded in maintaining this funding despite the difficult budgetary situation.
As the Deputy may be aware my Department is currently developing Ireland's first Early Years Strategy which will address a range of issues affecting children in their first years of life. I expect the Early Years Strategy, which will be published shortly, to identify opportunities for more effective utilisation of existing resources and funding, as well as priority areas for further investment through funding availability over the life of the Strategy.
While it is my objective to incrementally develop the early child care and education programmes over the term of this Government as resources permit, it is the case that expenditure and funding requirements are generally considered as part of the annual estimates cycle and budgetary process. It is not possible for me at this time to determine what decisions may be taken by Government in the context of future budgets and how these decisions will impact on expenditure allocations for programmes and services falling within the Vote of my Department.