I propose to take Questions Nos. 13 and 33 together.
One of the key priorities for my Department's capital programme is supporting private and not-for-profit childcare providers to extend their existing services, or to establish new services, where the need or the demand exists.
Each year my Department reviews the early learning, care and school age childcare sector to determine how the capital funding available can best be invested. For the 2019 capital programme, grants will be allocated to applications of the highest quality.
The decision on where to target capital spending is informed by an analysis of the current state of the childcare sector, learnings from previous capital programmes and feedback and input from stakeholders, including childcare providers, and data from Pobal and other sources. While the prioritisation of a particular area or region has not formed part of the capital schemes to date, the design of the scheme has regard to Pobal's geosparsity index.
Early years providers from Cork compete alongside services from all other parts of the country and all applications are appraised in a fair and impartial manner and solely on the basis of the quality of their application.
As regards capacity issues more generally, each year Pobal conducts research on behalf of my Department to examine a number of factors related to childcare services in Ireland, including capacity. The latest early years sector profile report, based on a survey completed in May 2018, outlines a 7% vacancy rate as a percentage of children enrolled in Cork. It simultaneously reports a 12% waiting list rate, indicating both under supply and oversupply but in different areas or for different age groups.
Pobal reports that nationally the trend for waiting lists suggests a reduction in waiting lists for older children and an increase for under twos but cautions that its data on waiting lists cannot by itself be used to inform capacity decisions as parents often place their children on more than one waiting list.
Finally, if the Deputy is aware of any specific cases of parents having difficulty accessing childcare places, they could make contact with their local city or county childcare committee who will be pleased to assist them.