Written answers

Tuesday, 14 May 2019

Department of Children and Youth Affairs

Affordable Childcare Scheme Eligibility

Photo of Gerry AdamsGerry Adams (Louth, Sinn Fein)
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447. To ask the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs if she will reconsider the eligibility of children whose parents are not in education, training or employment to participate in the affordable childcare scheme during the school term. [20700/19]

Photo of Katherine ZapponeKatherine Zappone (Dublin South West, Independent)
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The National Childcare Scheme is a new, national scheme of financial support for parents towards the cost of childcare. The development of this Scheme is a significant move forward in delivering quality, accessible, affordable childcare to families throughout Ireland.

The Scheme entails a fundamental shift away from subsidies grounded in medical card and social protection entitlements, and towards a comprehensive and progressive system of universal and income-based subsidies. By making this shift and by tangibly reducing the cost of quality childcare for thousands of families across Ireland, the Scheme aims to improve children's outcomes, support lifelong learning, make work pay and reduce child poverty. It is also designed to have a positive impact on gender equality in relation to labour market participation and employment opportunities.

The Scheme will ultimately replace the existing targeted childcare schemes with a single, streamlined and user-friendly scheme, providing both universal and targeted childcare subsidies. To make the transition to the new Scheme as smooth as possible, families can choose to make the switch to the new Scheme once it launches (targeted for October 2019) or can remain on their current childcare subsidy programme for one final year.

With regard to income-based subsidies awarded under the Scheme, parents who are working, studying or who meet certain other conditions will qualify for an enhanced-hours subsidy (up to a maximum of 40 hours per week). The definitions of ‘work’ and ‘study’ will be set out in regulations made under the Childcare Support Act 2018 and will be comprehensive, covering differing types of work and study arrangements, such as part-time, week on/ week off and zero hour contract arrangements.

Parents who do not qualify for an enhanced hours subsidy may still qualify for a standard-hours subsidy (up to a maximum of 15 hours per week). This approach reflects the evidence on the strong benefits of early childhood care and education for young children and, particularly, those from disadvantaged backgrounds, but also the evidence that these benefits are – in most cases – realised with part-time participation. The cap of 15 hours will provide for continuity between the National Childcare Scheme and the ECCE scheme, whereby it will be possible for a child to commence subsidised sessional care before the age of 3 and to continue in such care without disruption or a change of hours as they transition into the ECCE scheme. For children in school and pre-school, the standard hours subsidy will still entitle them to up to 15 hours of subsidised childcare out of term time while, during term time, child development needs will be met through school and pre-school.

It is important to note the provision of Educational Welfare services across the country. Many of these services offer after-school activities. Where a parent is at home and not in work or training, and where the NCS therefore provides 15 hours of school age childcare in non-term time only, certain children will have access to educational welfare after-school activities.

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