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 Header Item Child and Family Agency Funding (Continued)
 Header Item Early Childhood Care and Education Programmes
 Header Item Topical Issue Debate
 Header Item Social and Affordable Housing

Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 960 No. 4

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Katherine Zappone: Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone]  I am fully aware that does not cover everything family resource centres intend or desire but the moneys available are also to increase the numbers of family centres. Deputy Wallace said there are five in Wexford and there are three in Kildare, and I could speak about other areas where there are a significant number and others where there are hardly any. It is the first time in several years that we are adding to the number of family resource centres. Some of the funds will go there, and there will be up to €10,000 extra for existing family resource centres, which represents a great start.

Questions Nos. 43 to 47, inclusive, replied to with Written Answers

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Pat the Cope Gallagher Zoom on Pat the Cope Gallagher We have very little time left. We move to Question No. 48, tabled by Deputy Niamh Smyth, which is grouped with Question No. 58, tabled by Deputy Anne Rabbitte. I will ask Deputy Niamh Smyth to introduce the question and following the Minister's answer, I will allow a supplementary question from both Deputies.

Early Childhood Care and Education Programmes

 48. Deputy Niamh Smyth Information on Niamh Smyth Zoom on Niamh Smyth asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone if her attention has been drawn to the shortages in ECCE places particularly for the second free preschool year in rural Ireland; and the steps she is taking to address this matter. [43464/17]

 58. Deputy Anne Rabbitte Information on Anne Rabbitte Zoom on Anne Rabbitte asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone if her attention has been drawn to a shortage of ECCE places around the country, particularly in rural areas; and the steps she will be taking to address this. [43772/17]

 512. Deputy Anne Rabbitte Information on Anne Rabbitte Zoom on Anne Rabbitte asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone if her attention has been drawn to a shortage of ECCE places around the country, particularly in rural areas; and the steps she will be taking to address this. [43783/17]

Deputy Niamh Smyth: Information on Niamh Smyth Zoom on Niamh Smyth The shortage of ECCE places is particularly a problem in rural areas and is one of great importance to people in my constituency of Cavan-Monaghan. We must always be concerned that rural parts of the country are looked after as well as urban areas.

Deputy Katherine Zappone: Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone I propose to take Questions Nos. 48, 58 and 512 together.

Following the expansion of ECCE last year 120,000 children participated in ECCE in the peak term, April 2017. The further expansion of ECCE in budget 2018 is expected to see 114,000 children attend for a full two programme years. The fact that 120,000 have already been accommodated in April 2017 suggests that capacity should not be an issue.

My Department, with the support of the local city and county child care committees and Pobal, actively monitors issues affecting child care provision, including capacity.

In addition, my Department continues to work with the Department of Education and Skills and the Central Statistics Office to identify the number of children eligible for free preschool years. As it did before, my Department will make information available in the coming weeks to each of the 30 county child care committees on the number of children eligible for ECCE per electoral division. This will enable the CCCs support providers and parents in the local area to ensure sufficient capacity exists. If any future capacity issues are identified my Department will consider any intervention necessary, such as, for example, the provision of capital funding.

If the Deputy has any specific concerns with regard to a specific area, this area should be brought to the attention of my Department or the local city and county child care committee.

Notwithstanding this, I am keenly aware of the pressures on the sector with regard to maintaining and expanding capacity. My Department provided €8.4 million for its 2017 early years capital funding programme, doubling the €4 million provided under the 2016 early years capital funding programme. This funding has been made available to early years providers under three strands, the largest of which went towards enabling early years services to provide additional child care places.

Deputy Niamh Smyth: Information on Niamh Smyth Zoom on Niamh Smyth The Minister's remarks contain welcome news. My understanding from speaking with child care workers is that there is a problem with capacity because there is such demand for places, which is welcome. Many child care providers do not have the capacity or the wherewithal to supply the demand so I look forward to any announcements that the Minister might make on capital funding or infrastructure that might be put in place for these child care providers who cannot provide the places so that parents can access the free preschool year. The Minister's response today is welcome and I thank her for it.

Deputy Anne Rabbitte: Information on Anne Rabbitte Zoom on Anne Rabbitte My remarks on capacity differ little from Deputy Niamh Smyth's. The issues with capacity that I would have brought to the Minister's attention in recent days related to a crèche in Mountbellew in my constituency, and there is another one in Deputy Michael Moynihan's constituency. These crèches are seeking to expand and are looking to see if a capital programme will be put forward to deal with the problem of capacity they face, where they can cater for the first year but the second year and extension of the scheme will put them under pressure. They need to provide an extra room or portakabin. The money allocated last year was very welcome but there are several crèches, which have been in existence since 2007, that are looking to expand and want to know if there will be funding in the future.

Deputy Katherine Zappone: Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone Am I correct that the Deputies' questions refer to crèches or providers that have not previously applied for funding for capital expansion?

Deputy Anne Rabbitte: Information on Anne Rabbitte Zoom on Anne Rabbitte That is precisely to whom we refer.

Deputy Katherine Zappone: Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone In the budget, there is money for capital expenditure. We will develop a process to make that available in budget 2018. I look forward to having these conversations with the Deputies.

Written Answers are published on the Oireachtas website.

Topical Issue Debate

Social and Affordable Housing

Deputy Dessie Ellis: Information on Dessie Ellis Zoom on Dessie Ellis I want to discuss the availability of Fingal County Council lands in Dunsink Lane for social and affordable housing and the positive effects that this would deliver and ask why we have sat on these lands for so many years when there is such a crisis in housing. For many years, I have been concerned at Fingal County Council's lack of action in regard to Dunsink Lane and have raised it consistently. There are approximately 1,000 acres of land in this environ, 300 acres of which is owned by Fingal County Council, 200 acres is part of the old tip head and 150 acres takes in Dunsink Observatory and surrounding lands. The rest is privately owned.

Fingal County Council is currently conducting an overall study of this area, which is included in its development plan. There is potential to build between 4,500 and 12,000 social and affordable housing units on these lands, depending on density. One benefit of developing this area is that it is virtually a greenfield site, of which we do not have many, with a number of Traveller-specific accommodation units contained within it which can also be enhanced, delivering a decent quality of life to all in an inclusive way.

The city centre is only 4 km away. Dunsink Lane also contains vital road links between Finglas and Castleknock. The new Luas is located nearby at Broombridge. Dunsink Observatory and Elmfield golf course are currently not accessible from Finglas as a massive concrete block has been placed across the road, something that should never have happened. This ought to be removed immediately, with a new road built and a new bridge to accommodate it.

Other local amenities and advantages include its proximity to the M50 and to the Royal Canal, allowing the extension of the cycling area. It would also provide access to the Phoenix Park and the Tolka Valley Park, a beautiful new park, which runs alongside the River Tolka on the other side of where this proposed development would be located. Blanchardstown shopping centre and industrial parks also border on this area.

It is an area that has been neglected for many years. It unquestionably has great potential and would make a considerable dent in resolving the housing crisis. It would also help to alleviate the considerable traffic congestion between Finglas and Cabra and between Castleknock and Finglas. The blocking-off of that road has been an ongoing problem for many years, and has proved disastrous for the whole area. Traffic lines up from Broombridge right into Finglas and a similar problem arises on the other side, at the Cabra end.

This proposed project needs resources and a will to deliver them. There are considerable advantages in doing this. The land belongs to the local authority, Fingal, and if we ever needed a project capable of delivering large numbers of social and affordable housing units, this is it and this is the place where it can be delivered. For many of my childhood years, I lived in this lane and played in these fields.


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