A number of childcare support programmes are implemented by my Department to support parents with the cost of childcare. These include the Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) programme, the Community Childcare Subvention (CCS) programme, the Childcare Education and Training Support (CETS) programme and the new After-school Childcare programme. These programmes represent an annual investment of approximately €260 million in childcare supports and provides supports to more than 100,000 children.
The ECCE programme provides funding to make one free pre-school year available to all eligible children before they commence primary school. There are approximately 4,300 childcare facilities providing the free pre-school year with 234 of these facilities using the term Naíonra in the title of the service. While this suggests that these services are operated through the medium of Irish, only 60 services this year submitted their electronic returns using the Irish version of the electronic returns form.
The Community Childcare Subvention (CCS) programme provides funding to community not-for-profit childcare services to enable them to provide childcare at reduced rates to lower income and disadvantaged families. This programme also supports childcare facilities that choose to use the medium of Irish to deliver their services and all necessary documentation is available through Irish. In the current school year, 8 community childcare services submitted their returns through the medium of Irish. The CCS programme is presently closed to new entrants and new community childcare services seeking to enter the programme can only do so if they are in a position to replace an existing community services that has opted out of the programme and support the parents who previously used that service.
The Childhood Education and Training Support (CETS) programme provides funding to support parents who are returning to the workforce or are participating in Solas or Education and Training Boards education and training programmes. This programme also supports parents participating in Community Employment programmes.
An After-school Childcare programme was recently introduced and is targeted to support low-income parents returning to the workforce. The aim of this initiative is to ensure that affordable and quality childcare is available to disadvantaged families when work opportunities are offered. The CETS and After-school programmes are provided by both community and commercial childcare services and the funding provided is used by the services to reduce the weekly fees charged to qualifying parents.
Capital funding totalling €2.5 million is being made available in 2014 for the maintenance and upgrade of community/not-for-profit childcare services to ensure that community facilities that were established with the support of significant childcare capital funding remain fit-for-purpose and in a position to deliver quality services. All community services that meet the qualifying criteria were eligible to apply for support under the programme.
All of the funding provided under the childcare programmes is provided to participating childcare services that provide child care and education through the medium of Irish and/or English.