19 December 2011

Minister Fitzgerald protects future of universal free pre-school year

Fitzgerald, Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, has succeeded in protecting the future of universal free pre-school year despite the pressure to deliver €3.8bil of cuts and savings.

The Minister welcomed the fact that in line with the Programme for Government, the universal free pre-school year is being maintained. Her Department was also successful in securing additional provision for the funding requirements of the ECCE programme (free pre-school year) to meet demographic pressures due to an increase in the birth-rate since 2007. Additional provision has also been made for some initial requirements associated with establishing the new Children and Family Support Agency.

“This week An Taoiseach Enda Kenny made the first televised state of the nation address in thirty years. In a totally transparent and candid address, he detailed the gravity of the situation we are facing. This week the Government have announced details of the Budget. While savings had to be made we were as fair as possible and I worked very hard to protect the universal free pre-school year, funding for youth cafes and funding to establish the new Children and Family Support Agency as well as funding for the Children’s Referendum which will be held in 2012. I welcome the decision not to impact on children by taking a decision not to raise the pupil teacher class ratio in the majority of classrooms in our area,” explained Frances Fitzgerald.

“While savings must be made in some areas, our approach to expenditure priorities for 2012 is underpinned by a commitment to improving outcomes for children, in particular through transforming child and family services and the reform of funding streams and delivery mechanisms across all programmes in order to make the best possible use of resources,” continued Fitzgerald.

“I am firmly committed to the transformation of Ireland’s child protection and welfare services. Central to this is delivering transparent and accountable management and budgeting. The establishment for the first time of a dedicated budget sub-head within the HSE Vote for children and families is an important part of the ongoing ‘change agenda’ and will pave the way for the transition to the new Child and Family Support Agency in 2013.

“I am committed to quality youth work provision and I have directed that youth work funding allocations in coming years will see an increased focus on the provision of youth cafes, protecting voluntary local youth work and the reform of funding streams to provide more flexibility to address the real needs of young people and communities,” said Fitzgerald.

“Estimates announce €408m is to be made available to the Department of Children and Youth Affairs in 2012 and €568.9m for HSE Child and Family Services,” concluded Fitzgerald.