Lack of information on whether taxpayer-funded childcare facilities are still in use ‘unacceptable’ – Mitchell
Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Children and Youth Affairs Denise Mitchell TD has described as “unacceptable” a response to a Parliamentary Question in which the Government admits it has no idea if 847 childcare facilities which received €177.8million in Government grants are still in use.
Deputy Mitchell said:
“It is totally short sighted that such a huge amount of money would be spent under the National Childcare Investment Programme (NCIP) with no guarantee that these childcare facilities would remain in operation for the foreseeable future.
“The bulk of applicants who received grants were private providers, many operating out of their own homes.
“For grants up to €30,000, the providers had to give a commitment that they would remain in operation for just three years. Now eight years later, the Government simply can’t tell us how many of these childcare facilities are still in operation.
“The public demands for high-quality, affordable childcare is at an all-time high. It is very clear that future capital investment in this area should be directed into purpose-built childcare centres that are under the control of local authorities or communities.
“I would also call on the Minister to undertake a value for money review of the NCIP capital programme to see how much of this government funding is still being used to the benefit of our children.” ENDS
Note: Please see PQ below
For Written Answer on: 29/11/2018
Question Number(s): 203 Question Reference(s): 49940/18
Department: Children and Youth Affairs
Asked by: Denise Mitchell T.D.
To ask the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the number of private sector childcare facilities that benefitted from capital grants under the National Childcare Investment Programme 2006 to 2010; the number of these childcare facilities which are still operating in 2018; and if she will make a statement on the matter.
The NCIP (National Childcare Investment Programme, 2006 - 2010) Capital Programme was a strategic infrastructural programme within the childcare sector with an aim to address local needs and meet local demands in the provision of childcare places.
Under the NCIP, the maximum funding available per childcare facility for community-based groups was €1.2m; for private providers, the maximum funding available per childcare facility was €100,000, with a ceiling of €500,000 per applicant across multiple facilities. Private providers were required under the programme to contribute at least 25% of the total cost of the capital project.
The total number of childcare facilities funded under the NCIP Capital Programme was 847.
501 of these were private providers, receiving a total of €33m in funding.
A total of €177.8m was awarded under the programme, to both private and community services.
Depending on the scale of the individual grant in question, grants under the NCIP were awarded on the condition that services remain in operation for a period from three years (for grants of €30,000 or less) to twenty years (for grants of €1m or more) following the grant award.
Pobal manage the operation of capital childcare programmes and contracting on behalf of the Department of Children and Youth Affairs. Since 2010, a total of €883,233 in capital payments have been recouped by the state due to closures, decommitals, etc. under the NCIP. The following figures have been provided by Pobal and show the break-down of capital recoupments as follows:
Year NCIP recoupments
At present it is not possible to provide an accurate number of services that received funding under the NCIP, both community and private, that remain in operation to this day. This is a complex task due in part to changes in addresses, ownership circumstances and reference numbers for many services.
As part of planning for future capital investment in childcare, my Department is having due regard to the performance and operation of previous large scale capital investment programmes, including closures and de-committals of childcare services where state interests exist. This exercise will help inform our plans looking forward for investment in childcare over the next ten years.