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Dublin: 11 °C Friday 6 December, 2019

An extra €50 million is needed to ensure a place for all children on the National Childcare Scheme

Minister Katherine Zappone said it comes on the back of ‘decades of neglect’ in the area.

Image: Leah Farrell

A FURTHER €50 million in funding will be needed in order to run the National Childcare Scheme next year, Children’s Minister Katherine Zappone said. 

The existing Early Childhood Care and Education scheme helps fund preschool places for children between the ages of three and five years old.

A decision to extend this to two-year-olds was announced earlier this year under a new National Childcare Scheme from the Department of Children and Youth Affairs. 

Reports that a shortage of spaces for younger children as creches and preschools opt to take older children covered by the scheme instead, has led to concerns that there won’t be enough places for all children to access quality, affordable childcare. 

Writing in the Irish Independent today, Zappone said the “foundations we have put in place are good” but the “task was huge and ambitious”.

“It has to be as we are correcting decades of neglect and under investment by successive governments,” she said. 

“It is why we have secured a 117% increase in government investment in budgets since 2015. Why we have given extra financial supports to more than 80,000 children, with half of these on the higher targeted supports of up to €145 per child, per week.

She said the inevitable shortage of spaces was first identified by her department in 2017, and that despite securing additional funding in recent years, there was around €50 million in extra funding needed to ensure “quality accessible, affordable childcare” in the future. 

“To cut to the chase, an additional €50m will be needed to deliver the first full year of our new scheme in 2020,” she said. 

“This is just the bottom line, I will be seeking investment in other initiatives in the early learning and care, and school-age childcare spaces to further address access, affordability and quality.

“We need to build on the supports we are providing to the sector. Investing in childcare ticks all the boxes. It is good for children in terms of their development.

“It is good for parents who want to access education, training and work. It is good for the economy.

“A national debate on childcare was long overdue in this country. For too long families were left to fend for themselves. What government initiatives existed lacked vision.”

Zappone added that as pre-budget negotiations get underway she will be arguing for more funding for this area. 

“As someone with a background in community childcare, standing still is not an option for me. I want more progress,” she said. 

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