QUESTION NO: 15
DÁIL QUESTION addressed to the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Dr. James Reilly)
by Deputy Bernard J. Durkan
for ORAL ANSWER on 08/07/2015
To ask the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the extent to which he and his Department continues to prioritise accessibility to quality childcare facilities with particular reference to low-income families and/or the large number of families where both parents are at work or are required to work in the workplace; if consideration is being given to the vital provision of affordable childcare facilities; if the report, being prepared by the Inter-Departmental Group in respect of future investment in childcare, has been finalised; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
Bernard J. Durkan T.D.
Funding of more than a quarter of a billion euro is provided annually by my Department to support the implementation of a number of childcare support programmes that assist parents, particularly those in low-income families, to access quality childcare services. This funding, which is in addition to the direct support provided to all parents in the form of Child Benefit, supports more than 100,000 children each year.
The most significant of these programmes is the Early Childhood Care and Education programme, which represents an annual investment of approximately €175 million and enables almost 67,000 children each year to benefit from free pre-school provision. The standard weekly capitation payment for each eligible child enrolled is €62.50, with a higher capitation of €73 paid for eligible children enrolled in services where staff hold higher childcare qualifications. Parents who qualify for support under this programme can have their annual childcare costs reduced by as much as €2,774 for each qualifying child.
The Community Childcare Subvention programme provides funding to community childcare services to support disadvantaged or low income families. In the region of 25,000 children benefit from this programme each year. In the case of full day care, parents can have their weekly childcare costs reduced by up to €95 per week.
Further childcare support is provided under a number of labour activation measures which support parents returning to the workforce or availing of education or training opportunities. These include the:
– Childcare Education and Training Supports programme for parents availing of training and education courses;
– Community Employment Childcare programme for parents in Community Employment schemes; and
– After-School Childcare programme for after-school care.
The high level of funding to support these childcare programmes has been maintained despite the difficult budgetary position that has prevailed in recent years. To ensure that all the benefits of current (and future) investment are fully realised, it must be evidence-based and strategically coordinated. Accordingly, I have established an Inter-Departmental Group to develop a coherent whole-of-Government approach to investment in childcare. This Group is considering the needs of children in their early years as well as the needs of school-going children. The Group will submit its report to Government shortly.