Free Pre-School Year Maintained In Full – Minister Andrews
Reflecting the Government’s aim to protect the most vulnerable in Budget 2011, Vote 41- Office of the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs – seeks to maintain, to the greatest possible extent, the existing level of service provision for children and young people into 2011. The total allocation to Vote 41 in 2011 is €326 million – a reduction of €25 million or 7% on the 2010 estimate allocation of €351 million.
The retention of the free pre-school year is testament to the Government’s commitment to early years provision and the increase in the HSE’s funding allocation to support the Ryan Report Implementation Plan is further evidence of Minister Andrews’ pledge to reform the delivery of child protection services. Monies have also been allocated to finance the holding of a Children’s Referendum.
“The free pre-school year is to be retained in its current form and will support approximately 65,000 children to avail of pre-school care and education each year. Children are eligible for the scheme when they are aged between 3 years 3 months and 4 years 6 months on 1st September of the relevant year. Against the backdrop of very difficult spending choices, the Government decided that the pre-school year represents excellent value for the State in terms of investment in children’s educational and social development. In addition, the initiative has supported 20,000 jobs in the child care sector and has created another 7,000 additional jobs in the last year.”
The Minister also acknowledged that additional funding, amounting to €9 million is being provided in 2011 to support the continued implementation of the Government’s Implementation Plan arising from the Report of the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse (the Ryan Report). This additional investment brings the total allocation of Ryan Report funding to €24 million.
A key element of the Plan is the recruitment of additional social workers in order to ensure that all children in care have an allocated social worker and care plan. The additional 2011 funding will help to ensure that the targeted increase of 270 additional social work staff is met by the end of next year.
The social worker grade will continue to be exempted from the current moratorium on recruitment and replacement of staff.
The Minister said, “unfortunately, the budget allocated to the youth work sector has been reduced from €64.89 million to €60.95 million or a fall of 6 percent. While this reduction will be disappointing news for the sector, I am pleased to say that I have responded today to the on-going demand from young people to provide youth cafes around the country. The allocation of €1.34 million to the first dedicated youth café funding scheme in Ireland will provide new and improved facilities in which young people can socialise – facilities they have identified as attractive and appropriate to their own age group”.
Capital funding amounting to €10 million has also been allocated in 2011 to enable my Office to complete capital grant commitments under the National Childcare Investment Programme 2006-2010 (NCIP). This will bring the total expenditure under the NCIP capital grant programme to €186 million resulting in the creation of 25,000 additional childcare places.
€3 million has been provided to hold a referendum on the rights of the child in 2011.