I propose to take Questions Nos. 2553 to 2556, inclusive, 2577 and 2580 together.
The National Childcare Scheme (NCS) is set to open in October 2019. It is a new, user-friendly scheme to help parents meet 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. A key objective in the roll-out of this scheme is the streamlining of existing schemes and an improved experience from the provider perspective.
I am very aware of the administrative requirements associated with childcare including those associated with the administration of schemes under my Department. In acknowledgement of this, I have provided for support payments in respect of these schemes.
Over €19m of Programme Support Payments (PSPs), including approximately €10m for ECCE alone, have been made available to early learning and care and school age childcare providers this summer in recognition of the additional time required to complete the administrative work associated with the various DCYA-funded schemes. The payment also recognises the time required to perform activities outside of contact time with children, such as preparing materials for early learning and care sessions and assisting parents in understanding how they might benefit from the various early learning and care and school age childcare schemes supported by the State.
Since the introduction of the Programme Support Payment, then referred to as the “non-contact time” payment, in summer 2017, different “snapshot” periods have been used during the programme year to calculate the payment in an equitable manner.
- In summer 2017, a snapshot period of May 2017 was used to calculate payment for ECCE. For CCS, CCSP and TEC programmes a snapshot period of June 17 was used to calculate payment.
- In winter 2017, a snapshot period of November 2017 was used to calculate payment for CCSP, CCSU, CCSRT, CCS and for TEC. This payment was made to the targeted schemes only in light of the introduction of the September Measures in September 2017.
- In summer 2018, a snapshot period of May 2018 was used to calculate payment for ECCE. The winter 2017 payment was repeated for the targeted schemes, in instances where no winter 2017 payment was allocated a snapshot of May 2018 was used.
- In summer 2019, a snapshot period of December 2018 for all programmes was used to calculate payment.
PSP is calculated and administered on an annual basis in recognition of changing circumstances within the sector as well as the budget available. Different snapshot periods have therefore been used to calculate PSP in an equitable and fair way.
While the budget for PSP has increased since introduction, the PSP remains a budget limited programme that cannot be demand lead and must therefore be reconsidered on an annual basis as circumstances change; for example significantly increased child registrations. The distribution of the 2019 PSP has been designed to be fair, effective and in keeping with the general policy set in previous years, in so far as possible.
It should also be noted that subsidies for childcare under the National Childcare Scheme will reflect the non-contact and administrative requirements associated with childcare. The estimate of the cost of provision underpinning the Scheme proposals involved development of a model of a typical childcare service, using a range of available data sources to estimate costs for running such a service, and then carrying out sensitivity analysis for the impact of variation in key cost elements.
This cost model is detailed in the “Policy Paper on the Development of a New Single Affordable Childcare Scheme” (2016). The cost model encompassed non-contact activities such as: planning daily activities, recording observations of children’s development and activities, communication with parents, staff-meetings, and engagement with external agencies and assumed this to equate to 5% of contact hours.
Notwithstanding this I also recognise the unique requirements associated with the roll-out of a new scheme and on this basis I have launched a National Childcare Scheme Transitional Support Payment. Details of eligibility and the basis for calculation for this scheme were published on June 10th 2019.
This payment is available to providers who sign a contract for the National Childcare Scheme and is intended to support them in meeting the administrative requirements associated with transitioning to the new Scheme. The size of the maximum payment available to each service will be based on the available fund and the number of children in the applying services who are actively registered on one of the Department’s childcare programmes on 13th May 2019.
I have also launched a National Childcare Scheme Capital Grant Initiative. This initiative offers a capital grant to participating service providers for the purchase of qualifying ICT hardware and software to support certain administrative requirements associated with attendance tracking.
I will continue to work intensively to deliver this landmark scheme which will alter the landscape of childcare in Ireland, support families, provide a sustainable platform for investment and, crucially, allow us to continue to invest in giving our children the best start in life.