From January, all families accessing registered early care and school aged children will receive a minimum hourly universal National Childcare Scheme subsidy of €1.40 off the cost of early learning and school aged childcare.

According to the Department of Children, this would mean up to €3,276 off the annual bill per child.

It says a fee freeze on 2021 rates in more than 90% of partner services who signed up to the Core Funding Scheme means the NCS increases will not be absorbed into fee increases.

According to the department, the geographical breakdown indicates expansion in urban and commuter areas where there has been a significant pressure on places.

It says counties Kildare, Wicklow, Meath, Dublin, Galway, Waterford and Limerick, as well as Cork City, are all showing increases in capacity above national average figures.

To meet the cost of expanded capacity and in the number of graduates, the original allocation for core funding has been increased by €59 million.

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Minister for Children Roderic O'Gorman said actions to bring child minders into the National Childcare Regulatory space so parents can access the reduced fees will be introduced.

However, he said this could be around late 2023 or early 2024.

"We're focused on getting childminders into the regulated service," he said.

He said the focus for childcare was on capacity, and core funding incentivises childcare services to provide additional capacity, particularly where there are significant gaps.

"We'll be looking to bring in capital schemes over the next year and to build more services", he said.

He described current policy around the provision of childcare services when "a certain number" of houses are built as "a bit outdated".

The department has been engaging with the Department of Housing on this issue.

"We're worried about the delivery of it. In some cases the facility has been built but not kitted out, or it's the last thing built, or not built at all," he said.

The minister said planners, local authorities and representatives from the Department of Children will be engaging with the Department of Housing to get "a clear direction" regarding the existing statutory instrument.

He said core funding "does well" at providing money for services, paying staff better and incentivising additional capacity.

This has been proven by the funding of additional capacity for children under the age of one and children under the age of three according to the minister.

Legislation required for Mother and Baby Home redress scheme

Minister O'Gorman said legislation relating to the Mother and Baby Homes Redress Scheme would have to be passed before the scheme could be opened.

The Minister said the final draft is being prepared and engagement is under way with the Office of Parliamentary Counsel.

He expressed hope that he would be able to bring the legislation to Cabinet in October and then rapidly through the Dáil and Seanad.

The Minister said it could be passed before the end of the year but it depended on the legislative process.

Asked if the redress scheme would be extended following a statement by UN human rights experts last week expressing concern over the lack of adequate redress for systemic racism and racial discrimination in Irish childcare institutions between the 1940s and 1990s, the Minister said he wanted to bring the final draft before Cabinet prior to making a public statement.

Deadline to end Direct Provision likely to be 'pushed out'

The Department of Children says it is under pressure to meet its 2024 deadline in implementing the White Paper to end Direct Provision.

Minister Roderic O'Gorman said that due to the increase in the number of International protection applicants and Ukrainians displaced by war, it was likely it would be "pushed out".

While he couldn't give an exact date, he said other elements of the paper such as integration supports would be implemented.

At his Department's Budget 2023 briefing, he said next year, integration officers would be placed in every local authority to support those arriving here.

He confirmed that his Department would be seeking a supplementary estimate in 2022 to address the "significant costs" of accommodating Ukrainian people and the extra people seeking international protection here since the start of the year.

The Department said there are fluctuating costs regarding the "Ukrainian piece" and offered an estimated cost of €700m by the end of this year.

The Minister welcomed a Ukrainian fund that was set aside by Minister Michael McGrath in Budget 2023, which he said his Department would be drawing from next year.

Asked about the quality of accommodation for Ukrainian refugees, he acknowledged that there have been times where the Department hasn't been able to meet its obligations.

"That's not something neither I or anyone in our Department are content with," he said.

The Minister reiterated that at the start of the process the priority was to provide shelter and safety "and that's what we have done".

He said the scale of the challenge accommodating 52,000 people this year and accommodating 8,000 last year was putting great pressure on resources and he said "that sometimes means the quality isn't what we'd all wish for".