Fianna Fáil Seanad Spokesperson for Children and Youth Affairs, Senator Lorraine Clifford-Lee is calling on Minister Katherine Zappone to ensure that the major shortages in the number of places available on the Early Childhood Care and Education scheme in Dublin are tackled, particularly in light of the extension of the programme next year.

New figures released to Fianna Fáil this month reveal that there is a shortage of over 6,000 available places on the Early Childhood Care and Education scheme in Dublin.

Commenting on the information Senator Clifford-Lee said, “While there have been issues with some parents being able to access the ECCE scheme for their children, these latest figures reveal the reality of the shortages across the country.

“While huge gaps have been recorded nationwide, Dublin ranks towards the top in terms of a clear lack of places to cater for the population demand. There are far more children eligible for the scheme than there are ECCE places at this stage.

“There are 6,051 fewer ECCE places than there are eligible children across Dublin. In Dublin South there is a 2,241 shortfall and in the Fingal area alone another 2,064 places are needed to cope with demand.

“These shortages will prove a major challenge as the number of weeks that children will receive under the ECCE programme is due to increase, which will put additional pressure on an already strained system.

“Announcements that the scheme will be extended are of course welcome but these need to be followed up with necessary resources and staffing measures ahead of the planned extension of the programme. It is nonsensical to announce more places if children have no prospect of ever accessing them.

“This Government’s emphasis on spin has been exposed once again, as the Minister makes another promise that she simply cannot keep.

The Donabate based Senator concluded, “The Minister must urgently outline precisely how she intends to increase the number of ECCE places so that every child that is eligible for the scheme can avail of it.”