For Oral Answer on : 07/07/2022
Question Number(s): 131 Question Reference(s): 35385/22
Department: Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth
Asked by: David Stanton T.D.
To ask the Minister for Children; Equality; Disability; Integration and Youth further to Parliamentary Question No. 149 of 22 June 2022, the measures being taken by his Department to assist City, County Childcare Committees to provide créche pre-school services in areas where there is unmet demand; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
Officials in my Department have recently engaged with the City and County Childcare Committee and they have identified the vacant rates and places in their catchment area.
The profile nationally of capacity shows the majority of enrolled and vacant places in Early Learning and Care and School Age Childcare services is for pre-schoolers followed by school-age children and toddlers and babies. Overall, the proportion of places for babies and toddlers is higher in more urbanised counties, while demand for these places is very high.
As you are no doubt aware, the availability of high-quality early learning and childcare that is affordable and accessible is a key Government priority.
Since 2015, significant increases in State investment in early learning and childcare has given rise to a substantial growth in the numbers of children participating in these services. More than 100,000 children now participate on the universal pre-school programme on an annual basis and the National Childcare Scheme subsidises up to 80,000 children.
To ensure that the supply of early learning and childcare places meets demand, my Department has, since 2015, funded the creation of more than 27,000 new places through an Annual Capital Programme.
In addition to these efforts to monitor capacity issues across the country, my Department is planning a range of steps to address any issue of under supply. The new core-funding model, currently being rolled out at present, will provide funding for services aligned to costs of delivery so, for example, greater funding will be available to services that cater for younger children where costs of delivery are higher than older children. Some €70m has been allocated to my Department through the revised National Development Plan (NDP) – with the majority of this funding earmarked for new places. Another important step being taken by my Department, in partnership with the Department of Housing Planning and Local Government (DHPLG), is to update the 2001 Planning Guidelines for Local Authorities on Early Learning and Childcare Settings.
Last year I announced the National Action Plan for Childminding that sets out steps towards regulation, support and subsidies, for all paid, non-relative childminders. This plan will also support the engagement with many additional childminders that offer flexible, homebased care for children in their local communities.
In addition to these measures, the Childcare Committees, will proactively engage with early learning and childcare services to identify unused capacity and explore the potential for services in increase capacity where there is evidence of unmet early learning and childcare needs of families.