Amendments Nos. 1 to 3, inclusive, are related and may be discussed together by agreement. Is that agreed? Agreed.
Childcare Support Bill 2017: Committee Stage
I am pleased to have the opportunity to bring the Childcare Support Bill 2017 to Committee Stage. When I introduced the Bill to the Seanad on Second Stage I was grateful for the strong support I received from all sides of the House and for the constructive engagement from Senators. In addition to the amendments I am proposing today, I would like to signal in advance that I may propose one final amendment on Report Stage. This amendment relates to the list of issues specified in section 8 of the Bill. Section 8 lists the issues which may be included within the contract that childcare providers will be asked to sign should they wish to take part in the affordable childcare scheme. The potential Report Stage amendment, which I am still examining, reflects my desire to ensure that the Bill is future-proofed and leaves open the possibility of including a sufficient range of potential levers to effectively enhance the quality of childcare provision.
Amendments Nos. 1, 2 and 3 are technical drafting amendments. Under the affordable childcare scheme, personal public service, PPS, numbers will be provided as part of applications for financial support. PPS numbers are referred to in sections 7 and 9 of the Bill, however section 7 includes a specific reference to the definition of PPS number in the Social Welfare Consolidation Act 2005 while section 9 does not. The amendment addresses this minor inconsistency to ensure that there is a single clear definition of a PPS number which applies throughout the Bill.
Amendment No. 1 inserts a definition into section 1, the section which sets out the interpretation of terms used throughout the Bill. The definition ties the term "personal public service number" to its use in the Social Welfare Consolidation Act 2005. Amendments Nos. 2 and 3 are consequential on amendment No. 1 and delete definitions of "personal public service number" that appear in section 7 of the Bill.
I wish to note that while I have not tabled any Committee Stage amendments to section 8, I may propose one final amendment to this section on Report Stage.
Amendments Nos. 4 and 5 are related and may be discussed together by agreement. Is that agreed? Agreed.
Amendments Nos. 4 and 5 clarify which children are taken into account when determining the multiple child deduction that will apply to an applicant's assessable income. The multiple child deduction is a deduction from income which I intend to provide for families that have more than one child under the age of 15. It is intended to reflect the cumulative impact of childcare costs on families as it is total childcare costs, the combined costs relating to all their children, which matter to parents when they are making decisions as to whether to participate in the labour market. More broadly, the deduction is intended to reflect the relationship between a larger family size and economic vulnerability.
Section 13(5) of the Bill sets out the matters which the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs must take into account when making regulations on the methodology for calculating the level of subsidy under the scheme. These matters include the number of children in the family. In other words, this section gives the Minister the power to apply a multiple child deduction to a family's income for the purpose of the scheme's income assessment. Section 9(3) of the Bill ensures that the scheme administrator is provided with all the necessary information on other children in the family, again in order to allow for the application of this multiple child deduction.
In providing for the multiple child deduction, it is essential that the Bill is absolutely clear as to which children may count towards it. The two amendments proposed today are intended to clarify that the relevant children are, first, those children in respect of whom either the applicant or the applicant's partner is a parent or acts in a parental role and, second, are children who reside with the applicant or the applicant's partner. The first condition, requiring a parental relationship, ensures that the child cannot count towards the multiple child deduction if the child happens to live in the same house as the applicant but the applicant or his or her partner does not care for the child. In this context it must be remembered that throughout the Bill the term "parent" is defined to include a person acting in loco parentis and includes a guardian. To be perfectly clear, a child in relation to whom the applicant is a guardian or foster carer can count towards the multiple child deduction.
The second condition, requiring that the child and applicant or applicant's partner reside together, ensures that a child cannot count towards the multiple child deduction if the applicant is a parent of the child but does not have regular care of the child. Again, in this context, it should be noted that there is no need to include within the multiple child deduction a child who does not reside with the applicant but for whom an applicant makes maintenance payments. To remind Senators, maintenance payments made by an applicant are fully deductible in the parents' income assessment as a result of the allowable deductions specified in Schedule 1.
Amendment No. 4 amends section 9(3) to clarify that information including name, PPS number and date of birth should be provided in the application form only for children in respect of whom the applicant or the applicant's partner is a parent. Amendment No. 5 amends section 13(5) to clarify that, when making regulations on the multiple child deduction, only children who reside with the applicant or applicant's partner and in relation to whom the applicant or applicant's partner is a parent should be counted.
Amendments Nos. 6 and 7 are related and may be discussed together by agreement. Is that agreed? Agreed.
Amendments Nos. 6 and 7 are minor technical drafting amendments. These amendments simply involve punctuation changes to clarify the meaning of section 24. There is no change in policy and the amendments will have no practical consequence.
Acting Chairman (Senator Gerard Craughwell)
When is it proposed to take Report Stage?