First 5, the national ten-year strategy for babies and young children and their families, commits to maintain and extend the supply of high-quality, publicly subsidised early learning and care and childcare to best serve the developmental needs of babies and young children, ensuring that it also reflects the needs and preferences of parents and families. In this context, my Department closely monitors developments regarding capacity for both early learning and care, ELC, and school-age childcare, SAC.
Before the onset of Covid-19, we used the early years sector profile survey to gather data. This survey revealed, unsurprisingly, that the sector was running at near capacity and that there was some evidence of undersupply in parts of Dublin city and county. This evidence has informed the allocation of funding under my Department's annual capital programmes in recent years. Since 2015, we have increased capacity across the entire sector by 27,400 places, and 4,600 extra places have been provided in Dublin city and county.
Since Covid, there has been some evidence of depressed demand for early learning and care and childcare, largely due to changes in parental working arrangements. We have put very substantial supports in place for providers. This has ensured there has been no loss of capacity over this period. As a consequence, the supply of early learning and care and childcare currently meets demand, although there may still be a few small pockets of undersupply. However, ensuring that supply is sufficient to meet demand, particularly once work patterns stabilise following the removal of the Covid restrictions, remains a key priority.
The annual early years sector profile survey is due to commence this month. This will allow for updated information on capacity. We also have an Ipsos MRBI survey looking at parental demand for September 2022. All these data will help my Department's investment fund. My Department has made a detailed submission for capital funding in the early years sector to the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform in the context of the review of Project Ireland 2040.