Supply of, and demand for, early learning and care and school-age childcare places is currently monitored annually through the Early Years Sector Profile report. This survey is conducted by Pobal on behalf of the Department.
Data from the 2018/2019 programme year, indicates that existing childcare provision, in general, meets current needs nationwide in terms of capacity whilst recognising that small pockets of under supply may exist within this.
Nationally, capacity and vacant places increased year on year from 2017/2018 to 2018/2019. A breakdown of data is available at a local authority level in Dublin, including South Dublin and Dun Laoghaire Rathdown. South Dublin had a vacancy rate of 5% in 2018/2019, up from 4% in 2017/2018. Dun Laoghaire Rathdown had a vacancy rate of 2% in 2018/2019, down from 4% in 2017/2018. My Department continues to monitor this data closely.
A key policy objective of my Department is to improve affordability, accessibility and quality of Early Learning and Care (ELC) and School-Age Childcare (SAC). A significant increase in investment over the last number of years has led to a doubling in the number of children receiving free or subsidised early learning and care and school-age childcare. It has also supported the sector to increase the number of places available.
First 5, the ten-year whole-of-Government strategy for babies, young children and their families pledges to build on this progress. Among key strategic actions in First 5 is a commitment to 'maintain and extend the supply of high-quality publicly subsidised ELC and SAC to best serve the developmental needs of babies and young children, ensuring that it also reflects the needs and preferences of parents and families'.
To deliver on this strategic action, a range of actions are under way, including an update of the National Planning Guidelines for the development of early learning and care and school-age childcare settings, the extension of regulation to all paid, non-relative childminders on a phased basis and the development of a strategic capital investment plan to deliver large-scale capital investment under Project 2040. The development of a new funding model for ELC and SAC also seeks to address issues of accessibility.
There is also a commitment to strengthen capacity to accurately forecast supply and demand for early learning and care and school-age childcare.
Any parent experiencing difficulty in accessing a place is advised to contact their local CCC. Information is available at myccc.ie.