As Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, one of my key priorities is to support the early learning and care and school age childcare sector through the provision of capital funding, where it is most needed.
My Department reviews the capital programmes annually as a whole and determines the priorities for Early Learning and Care and School Age Capital grants for the year ahead. I have allocated significant funding in recent years for this purpose and for improving the quality of infrastructure nationwide.
Capital strands are made available to achieve the strategic priorities for the year as determined by the Department, having regard to the funding available, 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.
The Capital programmes are necessarily a budget limited exercise. Therefore, the maximum grant size available under each of these strands is determined in consideration of both optimising what can be delivered by each individual grant, as well as maximising the amount of providers and children that will ultimately benefit from the funding.
Planning for 2020's Capital offering is currently underway and the details of this will be communicated to providers in due course.
Childcare was identified as a strategic priority in the National Development Plan and €250m in capital funding was secured for childcare under the plan. This represents the kind of large scale investment in the sector by the State that has not been undertaken since the earlier National Childcare Investment Programme that concluded in 2010.
This investment will be essential to respond to the increased capacity we expect as the new National Childcare Scheme is introduced. The NCS will radically change how this country supports the cost of early learning and care and school age childcare.
Research is on-going to determine areas of specific need that the NDP funding will address when it comes on stream in the coming years. The exact shape and priorities of this funding is currently being developed: more information will be made public on childcare plans under the NDP as it becomes available.