Tuesday, 12 April 2005
Dáil Eireann Debate
97. Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of projects in the equal opportunities childcare programme which have progressed to sustainability since the beginning of the programme; the number of projects expected to progress to sustainability after the initial three year staffing grant; the number expected to require ongoing support; the number of projects which are delivering their agreed targets of child care service; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10888/05]
Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (Mr. McDowell): The current seven year Equal Opportunities Childcare Programme, EOCP, 2000-2006 has an equal opportunities and social inclusion perspective and facilitates the further development and expansion of child care facilities to address the needs of parents, in reconciling their child care needs with their participation in employment, education and training.
The EOCP aims to increase the supply of centre based child care places by 55%, some 31,372 places, by programme end. It also aims to provide support and assistance to the many childminders who are providing a child care service across the country. In addition, the programme encompasses many quality issues which were identified in the child care strategy, and aims to ensure that there is co-ordination in the delivery of child care services nationwide.
Total funding committed under the EOCP in the period to the end of March 2005 amounts to €347.8 million, of which €292.2 million has been allocated to child care facilities and €54.7 million to quality improvement measures. It is projected that this will create some 36,000 new child care places, and will support over 30,200 existing places. By the end of 2004 over 24,600 of these new child care places were already in place. A significant part of the remaining funding will be required for continuing support to existing projects and for the provision of capital grant assistance for the development of child care facilities in areas where there are gaps in service provision.
Staffing funding under the EOCP is only made available to help support the staffing costs of those community based-not for profit projects which can demonstrate that they are providing child care in areas of significant disadvantage and that they are supporting disadvantaged parents to access employment, education or training. It is not intended that EOCP funding will meet the full costs of running a service.
Over 800 community based not for profit groups receive ongoing staffing grant assistance, with over €30 million of EU and Exchequer funding going to this measure each year. It was originally envisaged that some groups would receive such funding for a period of three years, as they move towards sustainability which would normally be achievable when the service is operating at full capacity and with an appropriate fee structure.
In a number of services, the levels of disadvantage among parents are such that the families would be unable to pay economic fees and therefore those services are likely to require ongoing State support towards their staffing costs. Supporting such services is particularly important in assisting families to break the cycle of disadvantage.
The Deputy may be aware that I have approved the existing levels of staffing grant assistance until 31 August 2005, for all groups whose first three year funding had elapsed. These groups have been informed of my decision and that this funding is subject to maintaining their forecast levels of service and implementing any conditions associated with the development of the service in relation to previous grant approvals. The amounts awarded are deemed sufficient to enable the groups to maintain their approved level of service.
My Department is currently reviewing arrangements for the ongoing support of services in cases where they will have received staffing grant assistance for three or more years at any date prior to 31 August 2005. Included in the review will be an analysis of the number of services expected to require ongoing support; the number of projects which are delivering on their agreed targets; and the progress made by groups towards sustainability. When this review is completed, I expect to be in a position to take firm decisions regarding future funding arrangements. Information regarding the introduction of these new arrangements will be forwarded to the relevant groups as soon as it is available.
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