I thank the Deputy. Officials in my Department closely monitor developments in relation to early learning and childcare capacity, including the supply of and demand for places.
Before the onset of Covid-19, data gathered through the annual early years sector profile survey revealed that the sector was running at near capacity, with evidence of undersupply for certain cohorts, including children under the age of three, and in certain areas, including Cavan. This evidence informed the allocation of funding under the Department's annual capital programmes. We have been able to increase capacity by 27,433 places nationally since 2015, with 494 of these additional funded places in County Cavan.
Since the onset of Covid-19, there has been evidence of some depressed demand for early learning and childcare due to changes in parental working arrangements. The very substantial Covid supports we have put in place for the childcare sector have ensured that we have not seen a loss of services. We maintained the same number of services in 2020 that we had in 2019. Ensuring that supply is sufficient to meet demand, particularly once work patterns stabilise after the Covid pandemic, is a key priority for my Department. We are doing the fieldwork for the annual early years sector profile survey at the moment. This will allow us to update our data on capacity, which will inform capital investment plans and the prioritisation of future capital funding.
The cost of delivering early learning and childcare is higher for children aged under two years. This is because of the lower adult-child ratios. However, we also give higher subventions for younger children under the national childcare scheme, NCS. The maximum weekly subsidy rate for children under one is €229.50 and for children aged one and two years it is €195.75. These rates exceed the average full-time fee for children under one and aged one and two years in Cavan. The data the Department has gathered says that these fees are €166.33 and €165.36, respectively.
This year's early years sector profile survey will also include an income and cost module. Data from this module will form a key input into the setting of future funding rates and will also be considered by the expert group I spoke about earlier.