I am committed to ensuring that early learning and care and school age childcare is affordable, accessible and of a high quality. As you are aware, good progress has been made in this regard, with an increase in investment in this area of 117% over the past four budgets (increasing from €260m in 2015 to nearly €574m in Budget 2019).
Within these four budgets, a significant amount of exchequer funding was made available for childcare providers, whether private or community / not for profit organisations, to apply for Early Learning and Care and School Age Childcare capital grants. Capital funding is aimed at increasing the capacity of existing services, creating new services, and maintaining and improving existing services.
Each year my Department reviews the capital programmes as a whole and determines the priorities for Early Learning and Care and School Age Capital grants. This consideration necessarily has regard to many factors, including the financial resources available.
In 2019, my Department focused the Early Learning and Care and School Age Childcare Capital programme on the expansion of early learning and care places for 0-3 year olds, and school age childcare places where this is most needed.
The capital strands have been made available to achieve the strategic priorities for 2019 as determined by my Department, having regard to the funding available. These were developed using analysis of the current state of the childcare sector, learnings from previous capital programmes and feedback and input from stakeholders, including childcare providers and Pobal.
In 2019, €3.7m was approved for the Early Learning and Care Capital funding which is expected to create an additional 1,321 places in the sector.