Wednesday, 13 May 2020

Questions (1100)

Seán Sherlock

Question:

1100. Deputy Sean Sherlock asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs if statistical information will be provided regarding preschools (details supplied). [4267/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Children)

In line with the requirements of the Child Care Act 1991 (as amended by Part 12 of the Child and Family Agency Act 2013), those wishing to operate an early years service are required to register with Tusla for the purposes of inspection and regulation. Each year a number of early years services also decide to close of their own volition. Where an early years service closes, they are also required, in line with these statutory provisions, to notify Tusla of their planned closure.

Tusla, as the independent statutory regulator, has responsibility for maintaining the Early Years register. All data collected by Tusla including information relating to new applications for registration and reported service cessations is collated and verified on a rolling quarterly basis. On this basis, the number of applications to register a new service received up to the end of 2019 was 142, with the number of reported cessations for the same period standing at 196. Tusla can also confirm that, to date, no application for registration have been refused on the grounds of not meeting fire and planning requirements.

Tusla does not systematically record or collate information in relation to the numbers of individual childcare places available per registered service and so is not in a position to provide the Deputy with the requested figures. Where such data is collected on inspection, this is primarily for the purpose of ensuring compliance with the prescribed adult-child ratios as set out in the Child Care Act 1991 (Early Years Services) Regulations 2016.

Each year Pobal conducts research on behalf of my Department to examine a number of factors related to early learning and care and school age childcare services in Ireland, including the monitoring of capacity. This is published in an annual Early Years Sector Profile.

I launched the 2018/2019 Early Years Sector Profile on 16 December 2019. The Sector Profile indicates that, on a national basis, existing childcare capacity broadly meets current demand, although there are pockets of under supply in some localities. The following table outlines, places from the 2018/2019 sector profile. To note, this covers all services (not just preschools) and all children within a service, not just those funded under my Department’s programmes. Further, the number of children on a waiting list is an indication of demand, however, as parents often place their child/children on multiple lists, this figure cannot be used to measure actual demand.

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2018/2019

Capacity

218,745

Enrolments

206,301

Vacancies

12,444

Waiting list

23,187

Pobal data indicates that overall capacity has continued to increase year on year over the last 5 years, with the average service now standing at 47 versus 33 five years ago. This has been supported by the 141% increase in investment which has led to a doubling of the ECCE programme from one year to two years, twice as many children being eligible for State subsidies as before, and children with disabilities being supported to attend mainstream pre-school with the assistance of the AIM programme.