Assisting childcare providers in extending their existing childcare services, or establishing new childcare services, have always been key areas of focus for my Department's capital programmes.
Each year the Department reviews the capital programmes as a whole and determines the priorities for Early Learning and Care and School Age Capital grants.
The capital strands have been made available to achieve the strategic priorities for 2019 as determined by the Department, having regard to the funding available, developed using analysis of the current state of the childcare sector, learnings from previous capital programmes and feedback and input from stakeholders, including childcare providers and Pobal.
The capital programmes have been significantly oversubscribed in recent years, with demand for funding far outstripping the available budget. Unfortunately, this means that many services that submit high quality applications ultimately do not receive an offer of funding because the budget is not there to facilitate this.
As a means to address this, the 2019 Early Learning and Care and School Age Capital applicant guidelines, released on 31 January 2019, introduced a rule that clearly states that early learning and care services who have received funding under the equivalent strand of EY Capital (i.e. Creation of New EY Places) between 2016 and 2018, are not eligible to apply under Strand A (Creation of new places for 0-3 year olds) in 2019.
The introduction of this rule enables the distribution of capital funding around as wide a range of services as possible over a four-year cycle.
In the interest of fairness and equity, this rule must apply to all services without exception.
The service in question is not eligible to apply for funding this year under Early Years Capital 2019 - Strand A, as they received funding in the equivalent strand in 2016. This funding was made available to providers in order to facilitate an increase in childcare places from September 2016.
However, there is no rule precluding this service from applying under Strands B and C in 2019. I hope they are satisfied that the two other streams of funding under the 2019 Capital schemes are still open to them.
I remain committed to assisting all childcare providers, both community and private, in providing world-class childcare and meeting demand for childcare places, and I anticipate that this year's Capital programme will build on last year's good work in the sector, as well as that of previous years.