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Dublin: 13 °C Friday 24 May, 2019
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€2.75m childcare grants a 'drop in the ocean' of investment needed

Some of the grants are being used to provide outdoor spaces for children to play in, in order to tackle obesity.

NEWLY-ANNOUNCED CHILDCARE grants totalling €2.75 million have been described as a ‘drop in the ocean’ by a childcare association.

Frances Fitzgerald, Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, announced that €2.75 million in capital grant funding has been allocated to 671 grantees from childcare settings throughout Ireland.

Scheme

The national programme is administered by Pobal on behalf of the Department of Children and Youth Affairs. Minister Fitzgerald said she was pleased to be able to provide capital funding for the second year in a row.

She said:

This capital programme represents my commitment, and that of Government, to the ongoing development of the childcare sector.

This year’s funding scheme covered four strands:

  • Small grants to purchase equipment or carry out small maintained work, assessed by the local childcare committees
  • Grants to improve accessibility of services for children with disabilities
  • Grants to provide natural outdoor spaces that promote active outdoor play and
  • Grants towards critical works to ensure that buildings are fit for purpose under the childcare regulations (open to community/not for profit services)

Minister Fitzgerald said that “startling statistics” revealed by her department’s Growing Up in Ireland survey show that one in four 3-year-olds are overweight or obese.

In this context I am particularly pleased that over €1 million in funding has being made available to 161 childcare settings throughout the country to help them provide a safe outdoor space to encourage play and physical activity.

Investment

However, Teresa Heeney, Chief Operations Officer, Early Childhood Ireland said that while they congratulate the early childcare and education services around the country who have been successful in their application for the grants, “this is just a drop in the ocean of investment required in the sector”.

This is not a “new” investment stream into the sector, but rather a continuum of the capital funding programme announced by Minister Fitzgerald last year.

She said that following the recent Prime Time investigation programme Breach of Trust, “there were cross party calls for essential changes and investment to improve the quality and standards in the early childcare and education sector in Ireland”.

It’s so important that this mandate for change doesn’t evaporate over the summer months. We’ve got to ensure real action through detailed and realistic plans to develop the workforce; build quality through mentoring; reform and reinforce inspection; reform legislation and ring-fence the necessary investment to make all of this happen.

She also spoke of discussions between Minister Fitzgerald and her cabinet colleagues on ringfencing a training fund to ensure minimal qualifications in the sector, as well as money to recruit more inspectors.

Heeney said that higher qualifications should be incentivised and a Training Transformation Fund should be introduced to enable practitioners gain awards at levels 6, 7, 8 and beyond.

“The current Irish investment level of 0.25 per cent in early childhood lags significantly behind the European average of 1 per cent of GDP,” added Heeney.

Read: Childcare providers who breach regulations could be fined €100,000>

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