Dáil Éireann - Volume 688 - 09 July, 2009
Written Answers. - Child Care Services.
Deputy Richard Bruton Deputy Richard Bruton
Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Health and Children if he will indicate the number of childcare providers and the number of places covered who have indicated their willingness to participate in the proposed early childhood subventions scheme; if such providers will be permitted to charge top-up fees both for the core hours covered by the subvention and for additional hours provided outside of the subvented hours; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28911/09]
Deputy Richard Bruton Deputy Richard Bruton
Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Health and Children the way the capitation grant for the new childcare and education scheme was drawn up given the cost of rent, rates, staff and so on; and if she took into account the higher cost environment in Dublin; if a national curriculum for the programme is being considered; the number of childcare services and Montessori schools who have volunteered to participate in the programme; the number of schools who have shown an interest in the programme; the number of pupils involved in Dublin and outside Dublin; when the deadline will be; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28916/09]
Deputy Barry Andrews Deputy Barry Andrews
Deputy Barry Andrews: I propose to take Questions Nos. 213 and 218 together.
As the Deputy will be aware, I have responsibility for the implementation of the new scheme to provide a free Pre-School year of Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) with effect from January 2010.
It is a fundamental principle of the scheme that the free Pre-School Year will be available free of charge to parents. All participating services will have to meet the costs of the new pre-school year from the capitation provided under the scheme. However, services participating in the scheme may charge parents for additional services which they provide, including additional hours and additional activities or services provided these are offered on an optional basis to parents and provided appropriate programme based activities are provided to children not participating in an additional activity.
The level of capitation provided under the scheme takes into account a range of factors which contribute to the overall cost of providing the free pre-school year. It is considered that the capitation provided is sufficient to accommodate the majority of services both in Dublin and throughout the rest of the country.
All services will be required to provide an educational programme consistent with the principles of Síolta, the national quality framework for early childhood education in Ireland. Síolta comprises a set of nationally devised and evidenced based principles, standards and components of quality in all dimensions of practice in early childhood education in Ireland. It was developed  through extensive consultation with all stakeholders in the early childhood care and education (ECCE) sector in Ireland and is applicable for all settings where children aged birth to six years. A national team of Síolta co-ordinators will assist services in meeting these standards. The City and County Childcare Committees and the National Childcare Voluntary Organisations are also expected to play key roles in implementing the scheme.
As part of the preparations for introducing the new scheme, the Childcare Directorate of my Office recently wrote to almost 5,000 private and voluntary pre-school service providers in the State, inviting them to participate. These included pre-school service providers which are notified to the Health Service Executive (HSE) or registered with the Irish Montessori Education Board (IMEB) and a number of persons who have expressed an interest in establishing a pre-school service and participating in the scheme. A number of schools already operate or facilitate pre-school services and some increase in their number is expected as a result of the new scheme.
At this point, some 2,500 applications to enter the scheme have been received from pre-school services of which more than 450 are from within the Dublin area. These services expect to provide an ECCE place to 42,000 children, although a number have greater capacity should the demand present itself to them. Given the current rate of applications being received, it is expected that the number of places which will be available in the Dublin area will be sufficient to meet demands in January. Services have been asked to forward applications to enter the scheme to their local City and County Childcare Committee by 10 July 2010.
The number of children who will participate in the free Pre-School Year and who are located in both the Dublin area and outside, will not be known until January 2010 when the scheme commences. At that point, participating services will make a return to my Office indicating the number of qualifying children enrolled and attending their services.
Dáil Éireann 688 Written Answers. Child Care Services.