Tuesday, 2 April 2019
Department of Children and Youth Affairs
Affordable Childcare Scheme
482. To ask the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs her views on whether the proposed new affordable childcare scheme will negatively impact on some crèches, including a crèche (details supplied); her further views on whether the new proposals will negatively impact both on the funding for the crèche in addition to affecting parents and employment practices; if her attention has been drawn to the fact that the grant system accounts for 78% of the total grants fund from Pobal but the incoming system will only fund contact hours not full-time or part-time categories as it is at present; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15267/19]
The National Childcare Scheme is a new, national scheme of financial support to help parents with the cost of quality childcare. It will ultimately replace all previous targeted childcare programmes with a single, streamlined and user-friendly scheme, providing both universal and targeted childcare subsidies. The development of this scheme is a significant move forward in delivering quality, accessible, affordable Early Learning and Care and School Age Childcare to families throughout Ireland.
When the scheme is introduced in October 2019, many families will become eligible for childcare subsidies for the first time and many more families will qualify for increased levels of subsidy. The Scheme also provides a vital platform for future investment in the sector.
The National Childcare Scheme is designed to be flexible, recognising that childcare needs are different for each family. In creating a single, national scheme, it was important to recognise these differences and create a system that could respond to them without affecting service operations for providers. For this reason, subsidies will be awarded as an hourly rate, along with a maximum number of hours for which that rate is payable. The hourly rate of subsidy illustrates to parents their level of subsidy and will not affect service operations.
Parents and providers will continue to work together as they currently do to decide on the amount of childcare that is needed and can be provided. Providers will continue to set their own fees, sessions and admissions policies. The scheme will pay subsidies based on the hours of care agreed between the provider and the parent, up to the maximum hours awarded to the parent.
As with the current targeted subsidy schemes, payments are subject to a child regularly using the childcare place. In other words, the Scheme will have rules in relation to circumstances where a child leaves the service, is continuously absent from the service, or is not fully using the agreed place over a prolonged period. These rules will be child-centred, fair and proportionate, clear and consistent and will recognise the need for flexibility for parents. The rules will not disadvantage services for what would be considered minor non-attendances. At the same time, they will recognise the need to protect State finances by ensuring that Exchequer funds are used to support the maximum number of families in need of financial support, represent value for money for taxpayers, and are allocated in accordance with robust and appropriate procedures.
On 11th March, I launched a communications campaign for the National Childcare Scheme. The campaign encompasses a major nationwide training programme for providers. I would encourage all providers to sign up for a local training session on the new website- www.ncs.gov.ie- so that they can learn more about the operation of the scheme, including the rules on attendance and payment.
Finally, for services which are facing issues with financial sustainability, my Department oversees an integrated Case Management system which is administered by Pobal. This Case Management service provides non-financial assistance or support in the first instance. Financial supports are also available for community services facing certain challenges; these may also be accessed through Case Management following a financial assessment. Any service which is currently experiencing sustainability challenges, or which fears that the introduction of the National Childcare Scheme could potentially affect its sustainability, should contact its local Childcare Committee or Pobal.