The national childcare scheme will open to online applications on Wednesday, 20 November, with subsidies flowing from the following Monday, 25 November. The paper-based application will be available early in the new year. Children and families using the existing schemes may choose to remain on their current schemes.
In preparation for the national launch of the scheme in November, we have been piloting the IT system since 16 September. The pilot has been highly valuable, allowing us to identify and address a number of issues.
Last week, I signalled that a minor snag had been identified, which blocked a small number of applications from proceeding through the system. This relates to families with more than four children. The issue has been rectified but required a few additional weeks to address the issue and retest the system.
I am pleased that we now plan for the scheme to open for applications on 20 November. We expect approximately 65,000 children to benefit from the income-based component and a further 15,000 to 20,000 children to be on the universal scheme. Some 7,000 children will benefit for the first time. We anticipate that the families of approximately 45,000 children will receive subsidies higher than those they are currently receiving.
The pilot will continue for the coming weeks. Parents participating in the pilot will be able to register and use their subsidy award once the scheme opens. We are also inviting providers to complete programme readiness activities in this final pre-launch phase in order that they are ready to go and that subsidies can flow as quickly as possible.
The national childcare scheme is a landmark and highly innovative initiative. It is our future pathway to quality, accessible and affordable childcare in Ireland and our platform to support long-term investment in universal and targeted supports.
Parents and providers deserve a robust system and a positive user experience when accessing the scheme. It is too important for families for us not to deliver the best possible scheme and system. Parents with any queries regarding the national childcare scheme are encouraged to check our website, www.ncs.gov.ie, or to phone our parent information line.