I am pleased that we have managed to increase substantially our investment in childcare over the last few years. I want to continue increasing this investment but, in doing so, we must have an appropriate level of oversight and accountability.
Subsidies for all early learning and care and school age childcare programmes are paid based on the level of attendance of a child. These rules differ slightly across different schemes, reflecting the varied needs and circumstances of families.
My Department has been proactive in communicating these rules to service providers through our monthly e-zines, general guidance, letters and discussions with representative bodies. The 30 childcare committees nationally have also given support in this area. Pobal administers these childcare programmes on behalf of my Department and carries out compliance visits. Findings of non-compliance may affect a service financially, but I believe our approach to protecting Exchequer funding is balanced appropriately with the supports we provide to community services to enable them to continue to deliver a sustainable and high quality service. My Department worked closely with Pobal in developing processes and policies to prepare for any potential sustainability impact of correcting non-compliance.
I appreciate that community childcare services provide a critical service to children and families across the country. Significant supports, including financial supports, are available through a case management system to bring them onto a more sustainable footing, while being necessarily compliant with scheme rules. This includes a strand of funding which will be available to the services facing the most serious threats to their sustainability due to community childcare subvention overclaims, subject to a financial assessment. Pobal’s case management team has aimed to contact all of the affected community services to engage with them concerning any supports required. This has included one-to-one engagement to ensure services are aware of the supports available to them, including financial supports.