Dáil Éireann - Volume 587 - 15 June, 2004

Written Answers. - Child Care Services.

  495. Mr. O’Shea asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his proposals to make available grant aid under the equal opportunities child care programme for capital and quality improvement to child care centres; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17425/04]

  Mr. McDowell: We are at the middle stage of the implementation of the successful equal opportunities child care programme, which provides grant aid, as the Deputy mentioned. The programme has three strands: capital grants for community based, not-for-profit organisations and private sector child care providers to build, renovate, upgrade or equip child care facilities; staffing grants for community groups and not-for-profit organisations which provide child care for disadvantaged families; and support to the national voluntary child care organisations and other groups which are working to improve the quality of child care in Ireland. I am happy to inform the Deputy that almost 18,000 additional child care places had come on stream by the end of 2003 as a result of the programme’s support. The Deputy may be aware that the programme target is 28,000 new places by the end of 2006, so the progress to date is very satisfying.

There has been a significant number of applications for grant assistance under the programme. The demand for grant assistance to develop child care continues to remain buoyant. I intend to allocate the remaining capital funding available for community groups under the present strand of the programme to address the most immediate [592] service gaps following a comparative review of all applications on hand by 30 April 2004. Applications from community groups received after that date, along with capital applications which are not deemed to be top priority for immediate funding following the present review, will be considered again for funding if additional funding becomes available under the present strand of the programme or for funding under the next programme.