Fund to provide free pre-school care for 60,000 extra children

Over €6.5m in capital funding has been allocated to pre-school providers nationwide

Fund to provide free pre-school care for 60,000 extra children

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Minister for Children Katherine Zappone has announced a new fund to provide thousands of extra places in pre-schools nationwide. 

More than 60,000 additional children will be able to avail of free childcare between September 2016 and April 2017 thanks to the extension of a €4m programme announced in February.

Some €2.5m has now added to the scheme, bringing the total amount of available funding to €6.5m. 

The investment increase means children will now benefit from an average of 61 weeks, up from the previous 38 weeks. 

The extra places will allow all children, from the age of three, to have access to early years care and education until they start school.

Up to €10,000 will be allocated to 1,006 pre-school providers to help improve their facilities under the initiative. 

"These grants will enable them to refurbish or extend their creche," Minister Zappone said.

"There might be some minor building operations or alterations, and also, there could be proper play equipment, like toys, etc. These are the kinds of the things that child care providers have asked for and we're delighted that we can provide this today."

Around 96% of eligible children have so far accessed the free pre-school scheme, according to Department of Children and Youth Affairs.