To date, a range of capital investment programmes have supported progress in improving the quality of early childhood care and education services provided to children, including the Equal Opportunities Childcare Programme, the National Childcare Investment Programme and the Early Years Capital Programmes 2012 and 2013.
Some €2.5 million capital funding is being made available in 2014 for community not-for-profit child care facilities and will be directed to the repair and refurbishment of buildings which were supported by large-scale funding under previous capital programmes. This funding is also intended to improve building energy ratings and support sustainability.
The State has a particular responsibility to protect the capital investment that has been made to date in the community child care sector. Community child care services play a major role in ensuring that disadvantaged and low income families have access to quality and affordable child care. The community not-for-profit services provide access to the community child care Subvention programme which is funded by my Department. Approximately €45 million is allocated each year to participating community services to enable them to deliver child care to disadvantaged and low income families at reduced rates.
Many community child care facilities were built with the support of significant State investment and many are now more than ten years old with consequent issues arising in terms of repair, maintenance and upgrade. These issues must now be addressed to ensure that quality child care services can continue to be provided at these facilities. In rolling out capital funding in the current year, it was decided to target the current scheme towards community not-for-profit child care services to ensure that these services are in a position to continue to provide quality services, in particular in areas of disadvantage, and also to protect previous State investment in this area.
In 2012 and 2013, it was possible to provide capital funding programmes which were not restricted to community not-for-profit facilities and for which a wider range of child care services providers were eligible. I do not intend to expand the criteria for the 2014 programme.