New figures releases to Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Children & Youth Affairs Anne Rabbitte reveal serious shortages in the number of places available on the Early Childhood Care and Education scheme.
Deputy Rabbitte is calling on Minister Zappone to ensure that these shortages are tackled, particularly in light of the extension of the programme next year.
“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. In fact, in the whole of the country, only Cork city and Westmeath have enough places to cater for the population demand. Cork County, Dublin, Kildare and Meath have all recorded huge place shortages”, explained Deputy Rabbitte.
“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.
“While I welcome Minister Zappone’s decision to extend the scheme, it needs to be followed up with resources and action. There is no point in announcing more places if children have no hope of ever accessing them. In all but two of the thirty areas for which I have been provided data, there are far more children eligible for the scheme than there are ECCE places – in Cork County, for example, there are 2,260 fewer ECCE places than there are eligible children, in Dublin South there is a 2,241 shortfall and in Meath another 1,050 places are needed to cope with demand.
“This Government’s obsession with spin over substance has been exposed once again, as the Minister makes another promise that she simply cannot keep. Minister Zappone needs to outline exactly how she plans to increase the number of ECCE places to ensure that all children who are eligible for the scheme are able to take it up and what resources and staffing measures she’s undertaking ahead of the planned extension of the programme”.