Just 496 children benefit from State-funded scheme
Fewer than 500 children are benefiting from a government scheme designed to provide affordable after-school care to low-income families.
New figures from the Department of Children and Youth Affairs show that just 496 children were registered for the After-school Care Scheme between September 2014 and August 2015.
That represents just 0.1pc of a primary school population of over half a million children.
The scheme provides subsidised childcare with parents paying €15 a week and the State paying the provider between €40 and €80 a week, and the total funding allocation for this year is just €1.32m.
But some childcare managers have criticised the scheme as difficult to administer and badly publicised, thereby making it hard for families to avail of it.
The department said a range of options to improve after-school care were being considered in the Budget estimates.
These include new quality standards, a capital fund and a subvention system to amalgamate existing schemes.
Children's charity Barnardos said investment in after-school care was "desperately required" so more children could use it and the sector could become more professionalised.
"The continued lack of State investment in childcare and after-school care means fees are expensive, which poses a real barrier to parents," said June Tinsley, head of advocacy at Barnardos.
Previous attempts to make it more affordable had failed because of the lack of space in some areas and the failure to organise pick-ups from school, she added.