Minister for Children opens County Childcare Committee new Offices and announces the National Childcare Investment Programme in Donegal
Mr. Brian Lenihan T.D., Minister for Children, officially opened the new Offices of the Donegal County Childcare Committee (DCCC), in Ballybofey today. The DCCC is one of the 33 City/County Childcare Committees funded under the Equal Opportunities Childcare Programme (EOCP) 2000 – 2006.
Over €18 million in EOCP Capital and Staffing grant assistance has been allocated to Donegal. Minister Lenihan acknowledged the impact of this investment in the county, in enabling childcare providers to meet the needs of children in their care. The Minister congratulated the DCCC on their work and noted that the 44% increase in the number of childcare places in the county is a significant achievement in a relatively short timeframe.
The Minister also announced the new €575 million National Childcare Investment Programme (NCIP) 2006 – 2010 in Donegal, which was launched in Budget 2006 and which succeeds the EOCP. The NCIP is under the remit of the new Office of the Minister for Children (OMC) and is effective from January 2006.
Minister Lenihan said “that the decision to create a major new five year Investment Programme immediately, rather than wait until the EOCP expired in 2006, is evidence of the Government’s commitment to the continued provision of quality childcare”. The Programme aims to provide a proactive response to the development of quality childcare supports and services which are grounded in an understanding of local needs. It is building on the existing EOCP Programme and will incorporate a number of key objectives including the creation of 50,000 additional childcare places, including 5,000 after school places and 10,000 pre-school places aimed at 3 to 4 year olds.
“The Government had given a clear mandate with ambitious targets for the next five years, not just in terms of additional childcare places, but also in terms of the specific needs for pre-school services, school age childcare and wrap around services for children and parents” added the Minister. To deliver on the targets set, which includes an estimated 17,000 additional trained childcare personnel, to ensure that quality services for early childhood care and education are delivered, the OMC plans to develop a new Training Strategy to meet both the existing and future needs.
The Minister said that “as the DCCC will play a key role in the implementation of the new NCIP, it is very important to raise its profile with childcare providers, potential providers and families, which will in turn increase their awareness of the possibilities for improving childcare provision and the procedures involved”.
The Minister said that DCCC will continue to be funded under the NCIP and also noted that “additional funding will be made available shortly to DCCC for the implementation of its recently prepared 2006 Supplementary Action Plan and the recruitment of additional staff, to take account its expanded role under the NCIP, which includes supporting applicants, training and promoting School Age Childcare”.
Minister Lenihan emphasised his commitment to ensuring that the targets set in the NCIP will be met in a way which takes account of the specific needs of parents and their children. While meeting these targets will require careful planning and incremental development, the Minister for Children said he was confident that he has been given the necessary tools and resources to deliver on them over the lifetime of the Programme.