Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Children and Youth Affairs, Anne Rabbitte, has said the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs should put plans in place now to ensure there are enough fully resourced Early Childhood Care and Education Scheme (ECCE) places across the country.
Deputy Rabbitte made the calls to prevent any crisis in the provision of ECCE places which has become a yearly scramble.
Every year we have a race on for ECCE places before childcare facilities can no longer offer them due to a lack of resources or staff. As of July this year, there were over 14,500 children on waiting lists for ECCE places, indicating the massive anxiety that parents are feeling regarding securing a place for their child. In the end, many children end up unable to access the two full years of ECCE to which they are entitled, because of the lack of supply.
The Minister and her Department cannot allow another situation to develop which sees the number of weeks received by children under the ECCE scheme reduced. This caused chaos for many parents last year with shortfalls in the thousands in Dublin and Cork. Childcare facilities signing up for the scheme ought to be adequately resourced, so they can provide ECCE places.
Deputy Rabbitte concluded:
Minister Zappone should outline how exactly the scheme will work, provide adequate resources and staffing measures, so all children who take up the scheme will receive the full weeks they are eligible for.