Wednesday, 28 June 2000
Dáil Eireann Debate
216. Ms Fitzgerald asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the emergency action he intends to take to deal with the loss of 4,000 child care places; and the resulting crisis since the introduction of the child care regulations. [18635/00]
Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (Mr. O'Donoghue): The Government is aware of the need to support the development of child care service provision and identified child care as a priority area for investment in the National Development Plan, 2000-2006. The plan provides £250 million to my Department's equal opportunities child care programme to invest in the development of child care service provision. The objectives of the programme are to maintain and increase the number of child care facilities, increase the number of child care places and improve the quality of child care services in Ireland. Funding will be provided under the following initiatives: capital grants for community groups and not-for-profit organisations for the establishment, maintenance, renovation or upgrading of child care facilities; staffing grants to support staffing costs for community based child care facilities; for the first time, capital grants for self-employed child care providers catering for not more than 20 children at any one time, to build, renovate or upgrade child care facilities; grants towards the development of local child care networks; grants to enhance the services of the national voluntary child care organisations; grants to encourage and promote local child care training models that assist in the enhancement of quality child care provision; and innovative projects identified over the course of the national development plan.
On 28 April I launched the capital and staffing grant measures. They were also advertised during the same week in the national and provincial newspapers. My Department has received over 3,500 requests for application forms for these measures since their launch.
I intend that applications will be processed as quickly as possible so that funding can be administered to qualified projects without undue delay. To this end my Department will ensure that the appraisal committee, which will make recommendations on grant approval, will meet on a monthly basis for the rest of this year.
I believe that the measures announced will make a real difference to the future of child care in Ireland by maintaining and increasing the number of child care places and improving the quality  of child care services. The range of these measures will ensure that the supply of quality child care will be increased, particularly in disadvantaged areas, and that these facilities will benefit from staffing supports for qualified child care workers.
I am also conscious of the need to ensure that those with child care budget lines work together to ensure an integrated approach to the future development of child care using our resources most effectively. My Department is leading the co-ordination of child care service delivery over the course of the national development plan which involves the establishment of structures at national and local levels involving the key stakeholders including: an interdepartmental committee, chaired by my Department, to focus on co-operation and co-ordination between Government Departments and State agencies with a role in child care to facilitate the development of policy at an interdepartmental level and at the level of implementation; and a national co-ordinating child care committee, chaired by my Department, to oversee the development of an integrated child care infrastructure throughout the country.
The co-ordinating structures also include county child care committees whose role will be identification of local “black spots” and priority objectives for the county in the provision of child care and to put forward proposals for alleviating the position; development of a local child care information strategy; development of quality statements and targets for the county; liaison with my Department and the national co-ordinating child care committee regarding local developments; development of local networks of child care providers; assessing needs; and proposing initiatives specific to that county.
It is anticipated that the local structures will provide a means for effective planning and targeting of resources where they are most needed. Membership of the committee will comprise local child care representatives of the statutory and non-statutory sector.
The establishment of county child care committees will be facilitated by the relevant health boards. These committees will operate under guidelines which are currently being developed by the national co-ordinating child care committee.
My Department has availed of EU funding to develop a national census of group based child care facilities. The development of the census is a first step in developing a comprehensive database of child care facilities in Ireland which will provide assistance in monitoring the provision of child care services.
I would also like to draw the Deputy's attention to yesterday's announcement by the Govern ment in relation to an anti-inflationary package to counter inflation and protect living standards. The package provides an additional £40 million over and above the £250 million in the national development plan to the development of child care. The additional funding will be allocated over the coming weeks following further consultation with the social partners, as provided for in the Programme for Prosperity and Fairness – PPF.
|Last Updated: 11/09/2010 02:10:25||Page of 218|