Each year Pobal conducts research on behalf of my Department to examine a number of factors related to childcare services in Ireland, including the monitoring of capacity. The Early Years Sector Profile report, which was published in November 2018 and relates to the 2017/2018 programme year, indicates that existing childcare provision nationally meets current needs nationwide in terms of capacity whilst recognising that small pockets of under supply may exist within this.
This report outlines a 4% vacancy rate as a percentage of children enrolled in Dun Laoghaire Rathdown. Pobal reports that nationally the trend for waiting lists suggests a reduction in waiting lists for older children and an increase for under twos. Pobal cautions that its data on waiting lists cannot by itself be used to inform capacity decisions as parents often place their children on more than one waiting list.
My Department funds 30 City and County Childcare Committees across the country. Part of their role is to advise my Department on capacity issues. I would encourage anyone having difficulty in securing a place to make contact with their local CCC. Contact details for all of the CCCs, in addition to other information about the services they provide, may be found on www.myccc.ie
During my time as Minister for Children and Youth Affairs I have secured an unprecedented increase of 117% in investment for early learning and care and school age childcare. While this additional investment has supported a doubling of capacity in the sector it is clear that further capacity is required and that is why I am continuing my intensive efforts in this area.
In 2019, I provided €4m in capital funding to support additional places for under threes and €1m to support additional places for school age care. Successful applicants have been notified and I anticipate that this funding will support the creation of approximately 3,600 new and extra spaces for children up to the age of 15.
The National Childcare Scheme (NCS), due to be launched later this year will also be a significant intervention to address this challenge. The NCS recognises the different costs associated with providing childcare for children of different ages. The Scheme will provide for a progressive system of subsidies starting with the highest subsidy rates for children under 1(up to €5.10 per hour) and the next highest subsidy for children from 1 to under 3 (up to €4.35 per hour).
In relation to childminding, I was delighted to secure €500,000 in Budget 2019 to recruit a National Childminding Coordinator and a team of six Development Officers around the country, to support the registration of more childminders with Tusla and thus enable them access subsidies under the National Childcare Scheme. My Department will publish a Childminding Action Plan in the coming months to follow through on the commitments in First 5 and the Programme for Government to further develop the childminding sector.
In the more medium term, under the National Planning Framework and the National Development Plan published in 2018, I ensured that Childcare was identified as one of our nation's strategic priorities. I am delighted that €250 million in additional funding has been committed to for the expansion of high quality, early learning and care and school age childcare over the duration of the Plan.