I appreciate that this matter has been selected and that the Minister, Deputy Zappone, is in the House to deal with it. The community in Mountbellew will also appreciate the fact she has stayed to listen to the case I am going to make and, hopefully, she will have some good news for me.
I want to raise the urgent situation at the Mountbellew community childcare centre in County Galway. The centre has applied for a Pobal grant to fund a much-needed extension. The centre can currently cater for approximately 50 children but there is a significant waiting list to access the centre. Due to this waiting list, 30 additional children are currently using an interim measure of the loan of the national school gym, which, as I am sure the Minister will acknowledge, is not an ideal solution and not easy to manage. The children spend hours in their national school gym, where they have no access to rest areas. Even with this, many children in the community cannot access the centre because it is at maximum capacity.
There are many families whose children are not able to access their local community preschool programme. As we know, attending a preschool in their locality with peers who they will begin national school with is an advantage all our children should be afforded. Children in the area are forced to attend preschool in satellite towns and, even with this, they are only able to access limited days. Parents in this situation have been told their children are not advancing as well as hoped due to their limited attendance.
The centre urgently needs to be afforded this Pobal grant. The matter warrants immediate review. Investing in this centre makes economic sense. We must be able to facilitate parents to work and contribute while our children, the future generation, are nurtured in the best environment possible. This is rural Ireland. This is the generation working full time, bolstering our economy. I have been contacted by so many parents and members of the public from the Mountbellew area regarding this pressing matter. One email from a concerned father really rang a bell with me. He said that, in January of this year, he and his wife queued outside Mountbellew community childcare centre from 5.30 a.m. to try to get their daughter a place for September, only to be told there was no room at the inn and no space. This is because the childcare centre needs this extension urgently.
Mountbellew is fortunate to have a childcare centre of this calibre. All the emails to me from parents have noted the professional nature of staff and the loving, caring and nurturing environment. It speaks volumes that the majority of staff working there have been there for many years and continue to deliver the highest standard of care, with a continuing innovative approach.