Tuesday, 28 May 2019

Questions (11)

Fiona O'Loughlin


11. Deputy Fiona O'Loughlin asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs if options are being considered to increase childcare facilities nationally. [22604/19]

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Written answers (Question to Children)

I have noted many times how, historically, there has been very low levels of investment in Early Learning and Care and School Age Childcare in Ireland. Over the past four budgets however, we have increased investment substantially. It has risen from €260 to €575 million. This significant increase in investment has assisted with an unprecedented doubling of capacity in the sector from 103,000 places in 2014, to 214,000 places in 2018. The average service has grown from 33 places to 44 places.

A key priority for me as Minister has been to support the early learning and care and school age childcare sector through the provision of capital funding, where it is most needed. 

In 2019, I secured a Capital budget of €9.6m for the sector which enables a focus on increasing the number of places available, and supporting services to get ready for the forthcoming National Childcare Scheme.

This capital funding is expected to produce approximately 1,300 new 0-3 spaces and 2,300 new school age childcare places this year. Pobal and my officials are currently finalising the assessment of these applications and I expect to be announcing the successful applicants very shortly. This will enable building to begin over the summer and the places to be available before the end of the year.

Under the National Development Plan published in 2018, I ensured that Childcare was identified as a strategic priority and I secured €250 million in additional funding for the expansion of high quality services.

Finally, I want to expand opportunities in the childminding sector. I commissioned an Expert Group Report on childminding services in 2017. In the coming months, I will publish an Action Plan setting out how my Department will support more of these vitally important service providers  to become registered with Tusla. This means they will be able to access the National Childcare Scheme when introduced. This will further increase access to high quality childcare services. 

I am very conscious of the need to ensure we have sufficient capacity for all age groups. My Department, in conjunction with Pobal, will continue to monitor the situation closely, and to plan for future requirements.

Questions Nos. 12 to 15, inclusive, answered orally.