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Budget 2016: Coalition plans targeted childcare funding

Government wants to ensure children with disabilities benefit from free pre-school year

The Coalition is planning targeted pre-school funding as part of the budget. File photograph: Frank Perry/AFP/GettyImages

The budget is expected to begin a process of providing targeted funding to childcare providers to ensure children with disabilities benefit fully from the free pre-school year.

A fresh look is also being taken by the Government at refurbishing and extending Garda stations, and improving transport links to Dublin airport ahead of the finalisation of a new capital spending plan due this week.

Some Government sources suggested last night a move away from the proposed Luas plan linking the city centre to the airport was being considered and that a Metro-style light rail link may be the preferred option.

“Another look has been taken at various transport options to the airport. The Luas may not turn out to be the most effective and efficient option,” one senior source said.

“Extensions and refurbishments to Garda stations will be a significant element of the plan. It’s badly needed,” a Government source said.

New gardaí

This follows the recent announcement by Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald that at least 500 new gardaí will be recruited next year.

Stations that have been closed will not be re-opened, however.

Meanwhile, an unpublished Government report recommends extra HSE posts to provide therapies and other key services to children with special needs.

A series of essential supports have been identified to “enable the full inclusion and meaningful participation of children with disabilities in the free pre-school year”, according to Coalition sources.

“It’s recognising the importance of frontloading investment and providing support at pre-school level. It’s internationally recognised that the earlier stage at which intervention takes place, the better the outcome for the children’s future.”

As part of the Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) scheme provided by the State, childcare providers are paid capitation grants by the Department of Children but these were cut by the Coalition in its first budget in December 2011.

Specialised equipment

The report, ‘Supporting Access to ECCE for Children with a Disability’, was compiled by an inter-departmental group established by the Government in June.

Its recommendations include additional capitation for pre-schools.

It also highlights the requirements of some children for specialised equipment and calls for the alteration of various grant schemes available to pre-schools to ensure their needs can be met.

The therapies referred to are understood to include speech therapy and occupational therapy.

A dedicated website outlining supports for parents of children with disabilities is also proposed in the report.

Chambers Ireland will today publish a report highlighting the business need for childcare services that are “affordable, high-quality and accessible”.

Chief executive Ian Talbot said 50 per cent of women with two or more children did not re-enter the workforce.