We have had an unprecedented increase of 117% in investment for early learning and care and school-age childcare in recent budgets. The extra investment has supported a doubling of capacity in the sector, including both ECCE and the zero to three age group. It is clear, however, that further capacity is required and that is why I am continuing my intensive efforts in this area. In 2019, I provided €4 million in capital funding to support additional places for children under three years. Decisions on the allocation of the funding will be made very soon and I anticipate that it will support the creation of approximately 1,300 additional places before the end of the year.
In the longer term, I ensured that childcare would be identified as a strategic priority in the national development plan. To that end, I have secured €250 million for that purpose, much of which will be invested in additional capacity. The national childcare scheme, to be introduced later this year, will also incentivise additional capacity. It provides a progressive system of subsidies starting with the highest subsidy rates for children under one year, with graded rates for those aged from one year and upwards.
The €50 million figure quoted this week in the media refers to the full-year costs of the scheme in 2020. The Government was aware of the costs when it approved the enhancements to the national childcare scheme in budget 2019 and these costs will be addressed as normal within the Estimates process for 2020.
Childminders form a key part of the service provision for young children. I want to support the registration of more childminders with Tusla in order to allow them to access subsidies under the NCS. My Department has recruited a national childminding co-ordinator and will eventually recruit six more people as development officers in order to support this. We will also finalise a childminding action plan to set out the steps we have to take to move forward.