Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth | Prioritizing funding for the childcare sector
To ask the Minister for Children; Equality; Disability; Integration and Youth the extent to which he continues to prioritise for funding the childcare sector with a view to continued improvements; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
There has been an unprecedented increase in State investment in early learning and childcare since 2015, albeit from a low base.
Over the period 2015-2018, investment increased by 84 per cent – rising from €265 million per annum to €485 million per annum. This increased investment provided for a doubling of State-funded pre-school under the ECCE Programme – from one year to two – as well the introduction and roll out of the Access and Inclusion Model (AIM) among other initiatives.
First 5, the Whole of Government Strategy for Babies Young Children and their Families was published in 2018 with an ambitious investment target of at least doubling expenditure in the sector by 2028 to approximately €1 billion.
A new funding model was identified as the key vehicle to ensure that such significant additional investment delivers for children, families and the State.
Further to Budget 2023, that investment target will be reached this year, five years ahead of schedule.
The investment in 2023 includes €266 million to support continued implementation of the Core Funding Scheme for the first full programme year, September 2022 to August 2023 and into the next programme year from September 2023, with additional funding of €59 million being made available to cover the costs of increased levels of capacity and numbers of graduates in year one and for a number of enhancements in year two of the Scheme.
In addition to the continued support for the new Core Funding Scheme, Budget 2023 allocates €357.6 million for the continued implementation of the National Childcare Scheme (NCS), offering supports to a greatly expanded cohort of children and families at significantly higher subsidy levels– with additional funding of €121 million ensuring the hourly universal subsidy under the NCS could increase from 0.50c per hour to €1.40 per hour from January 2023.
Funding in 2023 also provides €308.2 million for the continuation of the ECCE programme that will benefit more than 108,000 children in 2023 and the continuation of the Access and Inclusion Model (AIM) to ensure more than 5,000 children with a disability can access and meaningfully participate in the ECCE Programme.
Finally, €84.5 million was allocated to support the delivery of a range of regulatory and quality supports for the implementation of the National Action Plan for Childminding, Nurturing Skills: the Workforce Plan, and the ongoing development of the registration and inspection system as well as policy development commitments set out in First 5 and the Programme for Government.
With investment in the sector to be €1.025 billion in 2023 –the total percentage increase over the period 2015-2023 is 388%.
Exceeding the investment target of approximately €1 billion five years ahead of schedule is a clear demonstration of the value Government places on early learning and childcare, given the benefits it confers to children and their families, society and the economy.
I recognise that however that, despite this progress, investment in Ireland remains low be international standards and I am committed to securing further increases in future Budgets. A revised investment target will be considered in the context of the second implementation plan for First 5, to be finalised in 2023.
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