The Deputy is referring the Department's 2017 financial allocation.
In 2017, the Department was voted €1.3 billion by Dáil Éireann under the Appropriation Act 2017, which also provides that unspent sums are surrendered to the Exchequer under the deferred surrender arrangements established by section 91 of the Finance Act 2004.
The majority of the unspent monies related to the Early Learning and School Age Childcare allocations.
Numbers enrolling under the ECCE scheme were lower than originally estimated. In 2017, changes were made to the scheme, including a three point entry system, and provision was made for a potential 100% take-up rate. The actual take-up rate was only 94%. The shortfall in ECCE enrolments also led to a lower than anticipated engagement in AIM programme by pre-school providers and parents.
In addition to this, a further saving arose on the Community Childcare Subvention (CCS) and Community Education Training Supports (CETS) programmes due to lower than expected uptake during 2017.
As the Early Learning and School Age Childcare programme year commences each September and can often have fluid movement of children between schemes, it is often very late in the financial year before my Department can fully determine what, if any, savings might arise. This then affects the ability of the Department to identify any other area of the Vote that might benefit from a "virement" (i.e., movement of funding to another subhead or purpose). This is further complicated as any virement involved would only be for once-off funding and would therefore not be available for use in an area that required it in the subsequent financial year.
A similar timing issue and knock-on implications for once-off funding would apply for other Departments. Any additional funding required by the Departments of Health or Education and Skills in 2017 would have been a matter for each of these respective Departments to address via a supplementary estimate process.