The National Childcare Scheme is a new, national scheme of financial support to help parents with the cost of quality childcare.
The development of the Scheme is a significant move forward in delivering quality, accessible, affordable childcare to families throughout Ireland.
The Scheme provides a universal subsidy to all families with children under 3 years, as well as families with children over 3 years who have not yet qualified for the free pre-school programme. The universal subsidy is not means-tested and provides 50c per hour towards the cost of a registered childcare place for up to 40 hours per week. Increasing the universal subsidy for children under 3 remains an option that will be considered in future Budgets.
The Scheme also provides income-related subsidies which, for the first time ever, will be differentiated based on age. Providers will receive the highest subsidies for children under 3, making it more attractive to care for this age group. Subsidies of up to €5.10 per hour for babies will be available for up to 40 hours per week, for families using registered childcare. This means that maximum subsidy for a child under 1 will be €204 per week (€10,600 per annum) - a significant increase on the current maximum targeted rate of €145 per week.
The National Childcare Scheme has been designed to be flexible, with income thresholds, maximum hours and subsidy rates which can be adjusted in line with Government decisions and as more investment becomes available. As such, it establishes a sustainable platform for investment in early learning and care and school age childcare for years to come.
Over the last four budgets investment in early learning and care and school age childcare has risen by 117%. However, I acknowledge that more investment will be needed to deliver the system that children and families deserve and First 5 commits to doubling investment over the next 10 years.