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€6.5m investment for major childcare expansion

60,000 extra children to avail of free services starting in September

Statement by the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Dr Katherine Zappone, TD

Friday 8th July, 2016

Dr Katherine Zappone, TD has today announced that more than €6.5m in capital funding has been allocated through the Department of Children and Youth Affairs to 1,006 pre-school providers nationwide. This represents an increase of over 2.5m on the amount of €4m announced for this programme in February 2016. Grants of up to €10,000 per provider are being provided.

Minister Zappone said: “The extension of the Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) pre-school scheme so that every child will be able to access free pre-school from the age of three until they start school (entering pre-school in the September, January or April after they turn three) is a welcome development for children, parents and Early Years providers.  It will see more than 60,000 additional children enrolled in the programme by April 2017.  Children will now benefit from an average of 61 weeks of the scheme, up from 38 weeks.   In order to ensure that there is sufficient capacity in the sector to provide for these children, this is one of a number of measures my Department has developed to assist services to expand.”

“I am delighted that so many high quality applications were received under this scheme, and that the majority of applications can now be approved for drawdown of funding. I look forward to working with the sector to deliver further improvements in childcare quality, availability and affordability over the coming year”

The funding being made available today is specifically for pre-school providers – both community/not-for-profit and private providers – who want to expand their services to cater for more children from September 2016.

The grants that are being awarded may be used to cover the following:

·        Build / fit out / refurbishment of an additional room /extension;
·        Minor building alterations; and
·        Costs for additional play equipment (to a maximum of €5,000) to facilitate an increase in childcare places.

This Department of Children and Youth Affairs, with the assistance of Pobal, invited applications from all services contracted to deliver its various childcare programmes. All submitted applications were considered in order to find those that most closely and completely met the criteria and objectives of the programme.

Minister Zappone added “I would like to thank all services who sought funding under this programme. The expansion of ECCE is another milestone for early years care and education in this country. The City and County Childcare Committees from across the country have been assisting my department to ensure that supply meets demand and I want to commend providers for meeting the challenge and expanding their services where this was possible.“

For more details contact: Jerry O'Connor, Media Advisor to Minister Zappone

Note to Editor
ATTACHED: List of Funding

ECCE and ECCE expansion

Introduction to ECCE ( Early Childhood Care and Education) or Free Pre-School
The objective of the Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) Programme is to make early learning in a formal setting available to eligible children in the year before they commence primary school. Approximately 96% of pre-school children have accessed the (ECCE) scheme over the last number of years, demonstrating both good supply and good take-up across the country.  In Budget 2016, the DCYA announced a significant expansion to pre-school provision under the ECCE programme.  This expansion will see the number of children benefitting from the Programme rise from around 67,000 to around 127,000 in a given programme year. Children’s entitlement to ECCE will increase from 38 weeks currently for all children, to an average of 61 weeks (ranging from 51 to 88 weeks depending on date of birth and age starting school). It is important to note that it is not a “second” pre-school year but, on average, a 60% increase, ensuring that all children, from the age of three, have access to early years care and education until they start school.

National infrastructure to support expansion in capacity
The DCYA funds 30 City and County Childcare Committees (CCC) around the country. The CCC staff support parents to access appropriate childcare and they also support providers to deliver and develop their service.  Pobal also assists the DCYA and the CCCs to identify any issues with supply and demand.
Actions taken to support expansion in capacity

In response to the expansion of ECCE announced in Budget 2016, the DCYA has initiated a number of actions to support the development of capacity in the sector.

1.        The City/County Childcare Committees (CCCs) carried out an analysis of capacity within the Early Years sector to inform whether there was a need to develop additional capacity within the sector.   The DCYA are reasonably satisfied that there will be sufficient capacity in the system to meet the September intake.   The DCYA will continue to work intensively and proactively with any CCCs who identify a concern re supply for the remainder of 2016 and into early 2017.

2.        A higher level of capitation (HC) is paid to ECCE services which are led by staff with degrees (minimum Level 7) and three years’ experience in the sector. This higher level of capitation was introduced based on international evidence that the most effective way of improving quality of services was through a more qualified workforce. The DCYA has altered ECCE’s rules to allow for higher capitation to be payable to services on a room by room basis. This would allow services with two rooms, but only one graduate, to still receive higher capitation for one of the rooms. This assists services in expanding capacity and incrementally increasing the number of graduates in their employment.

3.        The DCYA worked closely with the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government to consider planning issues for services wishing to expand their service. Earlier this year the DOECLG issued a circular to all Local Authorities asking them to assist early years providers with the their planning queries and the pre-planning consultation phase in so far as possible.

4.        The DCYA announced the introduction of an Early Years Capital Programme earlier this year with total funding of €4 million available.  This funding was targeted at early years pre-school providers that are making alterations to their services to accommodate increased numbers of children.   To ensure the maximum number of grant approved providers can avail of funding, the Department has sought and received sanction from the Department of Public Expenditure to increase the funding available by €2.5m, representing an increase of 60%, to €6.5m.  

Early Years Capital 2016 - Pobal List of Providers

follow us on twitter skills to work Supporting SMEs Be Winter Ready The Better Start Access and Inclusion Model (AIM) is a model of supports designed to ensure that children with disabilities can access the Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) programme