Budget cash for updating childcare facilities

Childcare providers will receive increased funding to upgrade their facilities and assist with administration costs as part of Budget 2018.

Having rolled out the first phase of the affordable childcare scheme, Children’s Minister Katherine Zappone is pushing for better quality and standards and has secured an increased budget to pump into facilities.

Creches and other childcare providers received €18m to help with administration costs last year while €8m in grants was also allocated to do up and expand facilities. It is understood the level of funding for both schemes will be increased next year with a focus on improving standards.

While Health Minister Simon Harris will try to hammer out a deal for his department with Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe today, Ms Zappone has completed her budget discussions and is said to be “satisfied” with the level of additional funding she has received.

Mr Harris met with the finance minister yesterday evening and it is understood some progress was made. However, both men will meet again today to hammer out the finer details of the health package as the overall funding allocation for health has yet to be decided upon.

It is understood that more supports have been agreed upon for home care packages with further funding being provided to help keep people in their homes.

This will be seen as a win Independent Alliance who had raised the issue with Mr Donohoe earlier this week.

Meanwhile an additional 800 gardaí are due to be recruited next year with the Department of Justice getting a slight increase in its overall budget. Some of this money will go towards paying the €40m pay increase which was awarded to gardaí late last year and department sources said Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan will still face a challenge to meet all demands in 2018.

Despite this, the Government is still confident it is on track to have 15,000 gardaí, 4,000 reserves and 2,000 civilians by the 2021 target.

Mr Donhoe will announce details of Budget 2018 in the Dáil at 1pm on Tuesday. While it is understood most departments will receive some increase in their overall budget, with just €350m to spare, these increases will be minimal in some cases.

“I don’t think anybody is saying they are greatly satisfied with what they are being given,” one government source said last night.

“Everybody wants more money but it has been well flagged in advance that resources are tight.”

The Independent Alliance are also in talks with Mr Donohoe, and are expected to remain in contact over the weekend before individual meetings on Monday.

It had been understood the Alliance would again meet Mr Donohoe today after submitting around 20 key demands around issues including housing, home care packages and betting taxes. However, yesterday one member said this meeting had been deferred but contact would continue over the phone and by email over the weekend.

“It’s still tense, there are still areas that need to be cleaned up,” a member of the Independent Alliance said.

John Halligan is still fighting hard on the issue of betting tax and will be seeking an increase of up to 5%, while other members will also be going to the minister with individual demands.

It is understood that Ms Zappone also made gains on funding for the affordable childcare scheme, that provides support to towards the cost of childcare, which came into force last month.

Tusla is expected to receive significantly more as part of Budget 2018. Ms Zappone is conscious that the agency still relies on the HSE IT system and requires its own standalone IT system.

Tusla will also need additional supports when the mandatory reporting of suspected child abuse for all organisations and people dealing with children is introduced from December.

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