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Written answers

Tuesday, 30 May 2017

Department of Children and Youth Affairs

Child Care Services

Photo of Anne RabbitteAnne Rabbitte (Galway East, Fianna Fail)
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653. To ask the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the estimated date of delivery for the affordable child care scheme. [25748/17]

Photo of Katherine ZapponeKatherine Zappone (Dublin South West, Independent)
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I recently announced a range of measures that will be introduced this September to make childcare more affordable for thousands of families throughout Ireland. This honours a key commitment in the Programme for Government.

The measures I am putting in place will ensure that parents of tens of thousands of children due to benefit under the Affordable Childcare Scheme will be given the opportunity to avail of increased childcare subsidies from September. These measures include:

- a new universal, non-means tested childcare subsidy that will benefit parents with children aged between 6 months and 36 months in registered childcare; and

- increased subsidy rates, in some cases by as much as 50%, that will be provided under existing schemes, specifically the Community Childcare Subvention (CCS) and Training and Employment Childcare (TEC) Schemes.

I remain strongly committed to introducing the Affordable Childcare Scheme and will do so at the earliest possible date. My Department has made good progress in this regard. The Government has approved the Heads of Bill for the Scheme, and officials are working intensively to plan for successful implementation of the Scheme. However, I am conscious that this is a complex project which we must get right from the beginning. We need to have the legislation, business processes and a new robust IT system in place. We will need to test the scheme rigorously to ensure that it works properly so that families can easily see their entitlements.

My officials are working intensively to deliver the scheme as quickly as possible, but I believe that it is prudent to take time to ensure we get the new systems right, so that they operate smoothly for everyone. I want to build a system that will underpin childcare supports for children and investment in the childcare sector for years to come. We are well on our way to introducing the Affordable Childcare Scheme. When fully operational it will be a state of the art system which will be capable of delivering, not just for this generation of children, but also for generations to come.

Photo of Richard Boyd BarrettRichard Boyd Barrett (Dún Laoghaire, People Before Profit Alliance)
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654. To ask the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs if the single affordable child care scheme will be ready in September 2017 as promised; if not, the way in which parents will manage child care placements for the school year if they do not know the cost of their child care; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25849/17]

Photo of Katherine ZapponeKatherine Zappone (Dublin South West, Independent)
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On 11 April, I made an announcement that the Affordable Childcare Scheme would not commence this September but that a range of measures will be introduced by my Department to make childcare more affordable for thousands of families throughout Ireland. This honours a key commitment in the Programme for Government. I can confirm that these measures, which will benefit the families of tens of thousands of children, will commence this September.

A new universal subsidy will be available for all children aged between 6 months and 3 years of age (or until they are eligible for ECCE e.g 3 years 3 months) in registered childcare. This will amount to as much as €80 a month or €1,000 per year for children in full time childcare.

In addition, subsidies provided under existing childcare schemes, specifically the Community Childcare Subvention (CCS) and Training and Employment Childcare (TEC) Schemes have been increased significantly, in some cases by as much as 50%. To illustrate the effect of this increase, the highest subsidy provided under the CCS scheme for full time childcare in 2016 was €95 per week. This will increase to €145 per week from September. This should decrease the co-payment required by families who qualify and therefore make childcare more accessible and affordable to these families; assisting them in their return to training and employment and lifting them out of poverty.

These subsidies, both universal and targeted, will be available through childcare services who contract with my Department to deliver the schemes. The schemes are open to 4,500 community (not-for-profit) and private providers across the country.

In order to ensure that parents and childcare providers are aware of the changes to the schemes this September, a comprehensive information campaign is underway. Information packs have been sent to over 4,000 registered childcare providers and an information road show for providers will commence in the coming weeks in eight locations throughout the country.

A dedicated website has been launched (affordablechildcare.ie) and information for parents went live on this website on Monday 29th May to inform them of the various enhanced childcare supports they may qualify for this September. A campaign via various media, including digital and radio, will also raise awareness among parents.

I remain strongly committed to introducing the Affordable Childcare Scheme at the earliest possible opportunity. My Department has made good progress in this regard. The Government has approved the Heads of Bill for the Scheme, and officials are working intensively to plan for successful introduction of the Scheme. However, I am conscious that this is a complex project which we must get right from the beginning. We need to have the legislation, business processes and a new robust IT system in place. We will need to test the scheme rigorously to ensure that it works properly so that families can quickly see their entitlements.

My officials are working as fast as possible, but I believe that it is prudent to take time to ensure we get the new systems right, so that they operate smoothly for everyone. I want to build a system that will underpin childcare supports for children and investment in the childcare sector for years to come. We are well on our way to introducing the Affordable Childcare Scheme. When fully operational it will be a state of the art system which will be capable of delivering, not just for this generation of children, but also for generations to come.

Photo of Brendan GriffinBrendan Griffin (Kerry, Fine Gael)
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655. To ask the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs if funding for after-school care for infants will be provided for a school (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25856/17]

Photo of Katherine ZapponeKatherine Zappone (Dublin South West, Independent)
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My Department provides funding for childcare services, which includes support for after school childcare services. An interdepartmental group chaired by my Department with officials from the Department of Education and Skills, finalised an Action Plan for School Age Childcare which was published in early March 2017. Under the plan, capital funding of €3m is being made available by my Department in 2017 to support increased capacity for the provision of school age childcare, as well as for improving the quality of the service provided by existing school age childcare services. The closing date for receipt of applications under this programme (via Pobal) was 17th May 2017 and the applications received are currently being evaluated.

From the information provided by the Deputy, my Officials were unable to ascertain if an application for funding under this programme was received from this school.

Comments

Kate Guerin
Posted on 8 Jun 2017 4:21 pm (Report this comment)

Can the Minister consider perhaps requesting the parents to register online for the €80 per month ACS subsidy instead of placing more onerous admin work on childcare services? This was done for the free GP Under 6 scheme where the parents entered in all their data and the GP simply went online and accepted or rejected the application. Once validated by the childcare service, the €80 could then be lodged direct in to the parents account by Dept of Social Protection along with their children’s allowance. The relevant Depts. Have all that financial data already and it would mean each parent who really wants the subsidy has to apply for this. Surely is this not the way every other Government initiative works. Where the beneficiary, in this case the parent, must apply themselves?

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