Thursday, 9 September 2021
Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth
Early Childhood Care and Education
The National Childcare Scheme offers a statutory entitlement to financial support for childcare. The Scheme established an equitable and progressive system of universal and income-related subsidies. Subsidy rates are tailored based on individual circumstances, such as reckonable family income, child’s age and their educational stage.
The current income thresholds under the NCS, are a minimum of €26,000 and a maximum of €60,000. This equates to an annual cost of €202.5M.
In increasing the income thresholds by 20% the minimum would increase to €31,200 and the maximum to €72,000. This would equate to an approximate annual cost of €240.5M.
In increasing the income thresholds by 50% the minimum would increase to €39,000 and the maximum to €90,000. This would equate to an annual cost of approximately €309.6M.
The NCS is designed to be flexible, allowing income thresholds, maximum hours and subsidy rates to be adjusted in line with Government decisions.
The National Childcare Scheme established the removal of many of the restrictive eligibility requirements associated with legacy schemes, for example dependency on Social Protection payments. This represents a significant step forward in combatting poverty traps for families in Ireland.
The universal subsidy is available to all families with children aged between 24 weeks and 36 months (or until the child qualifies for the Early Childhood Care and Education programme if later). The universal subsidy is based on the child’s age, and not on income. Parents do not have to undergo an assessment to avail of this subsidy. The universal subsidy currently provides 50c per hour towards the cost of a registered childcare place up to a maximum of 45 hours a week.
The income-assessed subsidy under the NCS is available to all families with children aged between 24 weeks and 15 years, with a reckonable income under €60,000. The subsidies are based on the child’s age and education stage.
The table hereunder outlines the current cost per hour and, the cost of increasing the rates of payment per hour on the NCS by 10% and by 20%.
|-||Current||10% increase||20% increase|
|Less than 12 months||€5.10||€5.61||€6.12|
|12 to 35 months old||€4.35||€4.78||€5.22|
|3 years, or older and not yet qualifying for ECCE||€3.95||€4.34||€4.82|
|3 years, or older and qualifying for ECCE||€3.95||€4.34||€4.82|
|At school (older than 6 years and less than 15 years)||€3.75||€4.12||€4.50|
The funding model of the NCS is based on key assumptions around the preferences and behaviours of parents relating to working hours and childcare choice, rates of growth in demand, and certain metrics are extrapolated from available data.
The NCS is designed to be flexible and highly inclusive, and aims to meet the needs of those families who need it the most. The Scheme is based on the principle of progressive universalism and has regard to the best interests of children.
761. To ask the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth the total cost of AIM services; and the cost per child assisted in each of the programmes provided under AIM. [42326/21]
AIM is a programme of supports to enable children with a disability to access and meaningfully participate in the ECCE programme. It includes 7 levels of progressive support, moving from the universal to the targeted. AIM supports are available through mainstream pre-school settings that are funded through the ECCE Programme.
AIM has seven levels of progressive support, moving from universal supports (levels 1-3) to targeted supports (levels 4-7), based on the needs of the child and the pre-school setting they are attending.
Universal supports (Levels 1-3):
- Level 1, which aims to embed an inclusive culture in services, includes the national inclusion policy and guidelines for ECCE, the funding of the Leadership for Inclusion (LINC) training programme, the establishment of Inclusion Co-Ordinator (INCO) roles in ECCE settings, and a small increase in capitation of €2 per registered ECCE child for services with qualified Inclusion Co-ordinators.
- Level 2 involves provision of information for parents and providers on AIM, through the AIM.gov.ie website and information provided by County/City Childcare Committees.
- Level 3 recognises the requirement to continue to develop a qualified workforce that can confidently meet the needs of all children participating in the ECCE Programme. Supports include funding of training courses such as Hanen, Lámh and Sensory Processing E-Learning (SPEL).
Targeted supports (Levels 4-7):
- Level 4 addresses the needs of early learning and care practitioners to have timely access to advice and support from experts in early learning and care (and disability in particular) to assist them meet each child’s needs.
- Level 5 recognises that some children require specialised equipment, appliances, assistive technology and/or that some early learning and care settings may require minor structural alterations to ensure children with a disability can participate in the ECCE programme. Supports include grants for equipment and some minor capital building works.
- Level 6 provides access to therapeutic supports where they are critical to enable a child be enrolled, and fully participate, in the ECCE programme.
- Level 7: Additional assistance in the pre-school room involves additional capitation for service providers where an application process has demonstrated that supports at Level 1-6 have not, or will not, by themselves, meet the child’s needs. Funding can be used by the provider to buy in additional support, or reduce the staff / child ratio, supporting the pre-school leader to ensure the child’s optimal participation.
In total, 15,509 children have so far benefitted from targeted AIM supports since AIM began in 2016.
The total AIM budget for 2021 is €48m. However, in 2020, the number of approvals for additional assistance under Level 7 of AIM fell to 2,868, compared to the previous year of 4,657 due to service providers availing instead of Covid-19 financial support through the Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme (EWSS) and we expect the expenditure in 2021 also to be lower than budgeted because of the EWSS.
AIM Level 1 spending is based on the number of INCOs, with the payment calculated on the basis of children in the ECCE programme supported by the INCO, at a rate of €2 additional capitation per child per week. Expenditure on Level 1 for the pre-school year 2020/21 was €5.6m.
AIM Level 5 expenditure on equipment and minor alterations was approximately €500,000 over the pre-school year 2020/21. During this time, 222 children were supported, with average spending per child of €2,251.
AIM Level 7 expenditure during the pre-school year was €15.8m, averaging a cost per child in relation to whom additional assistance was approved of €5,543. This figure is based on either €210 per week to enable a service to supplement their staffing by 15 hours per week, or €140 to supplement their staffing by 10 additional staff hours per week. AIM Level 7 additional capitation can also be approved on a pro rata basis where there is a clear justification for doing so (e.g. the child cannot attend the service on a full-time basis or other supports are available on a part-time basis).
Other levels of AIM, such as training for practitioners, are not calculated on a per-child basis.
762. To ask the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth the number of children in each of the age categories supported under NCS; and the cost per child in each of those age categories. [42327/21]
The introduction of the National Childcare Scheme was a landmark moment for making high quality childcare more affordable and accessible to families in Ireland.
There are two subsidies available under the NCS. The universal subsidy is available to all families with children aged between 24 weeks and 36 months (or until the child qualifies for the Early Childhood Care and Education programme if later). The universal subsidy is based on the child’s age, and is not means tested. This subsidy provides up to €22.50 per week.
The income assessed subsidy is available to families with children aged between 24 weeks and 15 years with a reckonable income below €26,000. Subsidy rates are based on the child’s age and education stage, and taper downwards from €5.10 per hour.
The table below outlines the number of children in each of the age categories supported under the NCS and the average weekly cost as of July 2021.
|Age Bracket||No. of Children||Average Weekly Value|
|Under 12 months||1,373||€79.89|
763. To ask the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth the number of children supported under NCS in each of the income bands; and the average cost per child. [42328/21]
The National Childcare Scheme offers a statutory entitlement to financial support for childcare. The NCS established an equitable and progressive system of universal and income-related subsidies for children up to the age of 15.
An income assessed subsidyis payable for children from 24 weeks to 15 years of age who are availing of childcare services from an approved childcare service provider. The level of subsidy is determined by the family’s assessable income (i.e. gross income minus tax, PRSI and other deductibles and minus any applicable multiple child discount).
The table hereunder outlines the number of children supported in each on the income bands and the average weekly claim as of July 2021.
|Income Band||No. of Children||Average weekly claim|
The NCS provides a sustainable platform to enable my department to continue investing in early learning and childcare for years to come. The Scheme is designed to be flexible, allowing income thresholds, maximum hours and subsidy rates to be adjusted as more investment becomes available.
764. To ask the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth the estimated cost of doubling the universal childcare payment payable up to 36 months without means assessment; and the estimated number who will receive same. [42332/21]
The introduction of the National Childcare Scheme (NCS) was a landmark moment for making high quality childcare more affordable and accessible to families in Ireland. It entails a fundamental shift away from subsidies grounded in social protection entitlements, and towards a comprehensive and progressive system of universal and income-based subsidies.
The universal subsidy is available to all families with children aged between 24 weeks and 36 months (or until the child qualifies for the Early Childhood Care and Education programme if later). The universal subsidy is based on the child’s age, and not on income. Parents do not have to undergo an assessment to avail of this subsidy.
The universal subsidy currently provides 50c per hour towards the cost of a registered childcare place up to a maximum of 45 hours a week. The current cost of this subsidy is €22.50 per week, which costs €11 million per year. Doubling this would amount to €45 per week which in turn, would equate to an annual cost of €23 million.
As the universal subsidy is underpinned by age, an increase in payment does not increase eligibility. There are currently 11,000 children on universal. The cost modelling reflects a maximum universal participation rate of approximately 15,800. Increases to the value of universal payments may add 3-400 children to this number based on increased incentives to avail of the higher subsidy.