Community childcare services has always been a key priority of my Department's capital programmes. This year, over €1.16m in capital funding was allocated specifically to community services nationwide for the purpose of creating new additional childcare places. Of this, €0.93m was allocated to community early years services, in twenty separate individual grants, as part of Early Years Strand 1 Capital. This will result in the creation of 396 new childcare places, of which 137 are for 0-3 year olds and 259 are ECCE.
A further €0.23m in funding was allocated to community school age services, in fourteen separate individual grants, as part of School Age Strand 4 Capital. This will result in the creation of 232 new school age places.
This year, the maximum individual grant award available to services was €50,000 and €20,000 for Strand 1 and Strand 4, respectively.
As well as this, Strands 2 and 5 are available exclusively to community services to support essential maintenance and repair of community facilities, exemplifying my broader commitment to assisting community-based providers through capital funding. This year, €1.25m has been committed across both strands for this purpose.
As you may know, I recently ensured that childcare was identified as a strategic priority in the National Development Plan 2018-2027. As part of this, €250m in additional capital funding is allocated for the childcare sector over the duration of the plan.
Research is currently underway in my Department regarding specific capital need, both present and future, in the childcare sector and this will inform capital investment in the coming years.
As part of the capital commitment of the National Development Plan, the possibility exists of funding significantly larger capital projects than currently pursued under the single-year programmes. However, the exact shape of my Department's future capital undertakings is still under consideration.