THE MINISTER FOR Children and Youth Affairs Katherine Zappone is confirming that the numbers in the free pre-school scheme has passed 100,000 for the first time.
Over 100,000 Children now in free childcare
95% of eligible children availing of scheme
108,019 three and four year olds now head off to preschools, crèches or community services to join playmates and to be cared for on a regular basis.
This number will grow further as registrations for January are still being processed and a further intake is due in April.
This figure represents a rise from 68,333 in 2014/15 and follows a major expansion which extended the Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) scheme to three-year olds last September.
Confirmation of the figures comes as preparations are continuing for the roll out of a radical new approach to childcare to bring Ireland into line with the international norm.
Minister Zappone added:
“The demand for accessible, affordable, quality childcare right across Ireland is now clear.
The increase in uptake is testament to the success of the ECCE scheme in meeting the needs of families with 95% of eligible children participating.
The pre-school services on offer are an integral part of growth and development, a key phase of childrens’ lives in the same way as primary and secondary school.
I am committed to building on this success to deliver childcare for everyone.
For too many families costs are a burden that is too much to bear and that is wrong.
We are continuing our ambitious plans to lift those barriers which are preventing parents from availing of training, education and work opportunities to lift their families out of poverty.
The development of the Affordable Childcare Scheme in 2017 will be a major breakthrough for families – it will ensure everyone is treated equally.
By correcting years of under investment we will move Ireland from having one of the most expensive childcare systems in the world to having the best.
Preparations for our new single, streamlined and user-friendly scheme are continuing and I look forward to bringing legislative proposals to cabinet on Tuesday.”
Officials are currently making preparations for the introduction of the new scheme, which will involve enacting legislation and developing a major new IT infrastructure to ensure the scheme allows online applications for parents.