Tuesday, 25 June 2019

Questions (726)

John Brady


726. Deputy John Brady asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if she had an engagement with the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs on the new national childcare scheme and the potential impact on low-income families and, in particular, lone parents; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26846/19]

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Written answers (Question to Employment)

I work closely with that Minister on a regular basis on a range of issues, including the national childcare scheme, which is to be expected given the shared policy objectives across our respective departments.

The new national childcare scheme will benefit most families; however, I understand from that a number of issues have been raised with as regards to the impact on lone parents. Arrangements are in place to ensure that no one loses out in the initial transition to the new Scheme. So, whilst there may have been fears that, in a small number of cases, a family currently receiving the maximum amount of financial support for full-time childcare under an existing programme may receive less under the new Scheme, particularly if their child is, in reality, receiving afterschool care only rather than full-time childcare, they will not lose out. The family can continue to access their current targeted supports (i.e. effectively remain on their current payment) until at least the end of August 2020.

I understand that officials from the Department of Children and Youth Affairs have also been directed to undertake research and analysis to examine any adjustments to the National Childcare Scheme which might be required to address unusual or anomalous cases, where this is the right thing to do to protect and benefit lower income parents. In this regard, it is important to highlight that the new 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, any adjustments deemed necessary by Government can be carried out in a quick and responsive manner.