Firstly, I would like to acknowledge the importance of the services delivered by Darndale Belcamp Integrated Childcare Service Ltd. to some 260 children across the areas of Darndale, Belcamp and Moatview. In 2013 the Centre incurred expenditure of €2.022 million and received funding amounting to €1.960 million resulting in a deficit of €62,000. The Centre employs approximately 100 staff, including Community Employment participants. I understand that the Centre has been experiencing cash flow difficulties over recent weeks and that this has given rise to concerns regarding its future operation. The Centre has been in discussions with the Child and Family Agency, as one of a number of state agencies which provides funding to support the provision of services at the Centre. In order to alleviate the immediate cash flow difficulty the Agency prepaid funding due to the Centre in May and June. I would expect that the Agency will be open to providing some further pre-payments to the Centre if this is of assistance.
The Chairperson of the Centre has also been in correspondence with my predecessor, Minister Fitzgerald, regarding the current difficulties. Minister Fitzgerald advised, inter alia, that in her view the wider solution to the current difficulties would need to have regard to the overall provision of early years services in the area. This is important as we need to ensure that all available resources to support these key services are maximised. The Minister also expressed the view, with which I concur, that this will require some time and space.
The Deputy will appreciate that I am still in the process of familiarising myself with the issues involved. In this context, I have asked my officials to meet with the Child and Family Agency and with Pobal (which administers a number of childcare schemes on behalf of my Department) to explore all possible solutions to the current difficulties having regard to the overall provision of early years services. I can assure the Deputy that this matter is being given priority attention.