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Friday 3 February 2023 Dublin: 10°C
# playschool
Demand for crèches: For the first time, there are over 100,000 children in free childcare
This represents an increase of almost 50% in a year, and comes before Zappone brings her plans before the Dáil next week.

THE MINISTER FOR Children and Youth Affairs Katherine Zappone is confirming that the numbers in the free pre-school scheme has passed 100,000 for the first time.

108,019 three- and four-year-olds are now attending creches and preschools while availing of the scheme.

This figure represents a significant rise from 68,333 in 2014/15 and follows a major expansion which extended the Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) scheme to three-year olds last September.

But there are questions whether a free childcare scheme is the best way to tackle high-childcare costs: critics have suggested increasing supply to drive down prices would be a better way forward.

Minister Zappone said in response to the figures that “the demand for accessible, affordable, quality childcare right across Ireland is now clear.”

These figures also show that 95% of children eligible for the scheme are availing of it.

“By correcting years of under investment we will move Ireland from having one of the most expensive childcare systems in the world to having the best,” Zappone also said.

Preparations for our new single, streamlined and user-friendly scheme are continuing and I look forward to bringing legislative proposals to cabinet on Tuesday.

Who are these schemes for?

Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) aims to make free pre-school education available to eligible children in the period before they commence primary school.

In Budget 2016, the Department of Children and Youth Affairs announced a significant expansion to pre-school provision under the ECCE programme.

Children’s entitlement to ECCE increased 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).

The Affordable Childcare Scheme is a new national scheme of financial support for parents towards the cost of their childcare.

Childcare has posed a particular difficulty for working parents, as the cost per month can often match the salary of one of the parents, meaning one person chooses to stay at home to care for their children.

Read: ‘The sector is in real crisis’: New report reveals the cost of providing childcare

Read: Budget 2017: Childcare overhaul will ‘increase women’s participation in the workforce’

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