As the Deputy will be aware, I have responsibility for the National Childcare Investment Programme 2006-2010 (NCIP), which will invest €575 million over 5 years, with €358 million of this in capital grant aid for child care services.
The NCIP came into effect in January 2006, and aims to provide a proactive response to the development of quality child care supports and services, which are grounded in an understanding of local needs. It is building on the success of the Equal Opportunities Childcare Programme 2000-2006 (EOCP) and incorporates among its key objectives: increasing the supply and improving the quality of early childhood care and education services. Services eligible for support include those providing care for babies, full-day care, part-time, sessional playschool, Montessori and other pre-school places, school age child care including "wrap around" child care places, and childminding. Special consideration is given to supporting services which provide a range of these services.
Eligibility for capital grant funding under the NCIP is assessed under a number of criteria; chiefly the nature and extent of the need locally for the service proposed, the applicant's capacity to deliver the project proposed and value for money. To comply with the criteria, services, including playschool, Montessori and other pre-school services, are expected to operate for minimum periods per day. All proposals are expected to demonstrate how they will increase the supply of quality child care and community-based projects are expected to demonstrate a focus on disadvantage. The maximum capital grants available under the scheme for the building or expansion of child care facilities are €1.2 million per facility for community-based not for profit providers and €100,000 per facility for private providers (subject to a maximum of 75% of the total cost) and a maximum of €500,000 for multiple services in different catchment areas. In addition, a small grant scheme is available for Parent and Toddler Groups.
Applicants for capital funding under the NCIP first apply through their local City or County Childcare Committee (CCC), whose role it is to identify gaps in child care provision in their respective areas and to assist applicants to develop proposals to fill identified local needs. Capital funding under the NCIP is subject to the rules governing capital expenditure and the multi-annual investment framework, which are conditions of the sanction given by the Department of Finance each year for capital expenditure. To accord with these rules, the amount of capital available for allocation under the NCIP on the basis of portfolios submitted by CCCs in 2008, is expected to be in the region of €120 million. Each CCC has been allocated a portion of this figure, as an indicative budget for this year, which was calculated with reference to a number of factors, including the level of capital grant aid approved in the respective areas to date, the amount of capital grant aid remaining to be allocated under the NCIP and the child populations in the areas covered by the Committee in question. Where this resulted in a figure below €1.5 million, the figure was increased to this amount. In terms of projects being developed by each Committee, they are expected to prioritise these in the context of the funding available to their area.