Thursday, 17 October 2019

Questions (292)

Anne Rabbitte

Question:

292. Deputy Anne Rabbitte asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs further to Parliamentary Question No. 690 of 9 July 2019, the status of her plans to publish the details of these agreements in view of the significant delays that have been encountered and the serious negative impact the lack of clarity is having on those who will be administering the schemes; the timeline for the completion of the sponsorship agreements in advance of the roll-out of the national childcare scheme; the status of the training for front-line staff who will be involved in the administration of the sponsorship schemes; if detailed qualifying criteria have been agreed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [42736/19]

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Written answers (Question to Children)

The Childcare Support Act 2018 makes provision for the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs to enter into formal agreements with specific statutory bodies ("sponsor bodies") for the purposes of referring vulnerable children and families to the National Childcare Scheme.  Engagement is progressing well between my officials and each of the bodies in relation to the terms of agreements under which vulnerable children will be referred to the scheme.  The terms of each agreement will include such matters as the qualifying criteria under which children will be referred.

Engagement is very advanced and it is anticipated that signed agreements will be in place with each of the bodies before the launch of the National Childcare Scheme in the coming weeks.  Each body has its own internal mechanisms through which the agreement must be progressed before it can be signed by the relevant authorised person within each body. The criteria for referral and other relevant information specific to each agreement will be published once the agreements are signed in due course.    

Where a referral is made by a sponsor body, the families will automatically qualify for a subsidy without having to satisfy any income test. 

Training will be provided for frontline staff who will be involved in the referral of vulnerable children to the National Childcare Scheme under the sponsor agreements. Preparation is underway for detailed and comprehensive training sessions, tailored specifically for staff in the various sponsor bodies.  The training programme will commence in the coming weeks and builds on the training approach used in separate phases of the project to date which has been received very positively by its target group. 

Finally, it may be noted that sponsor agreements under the National Childcare Scheme are not intended to come into effect until after the Scheme launches in November.  In the interim, the existing arrangements under the current targeted childcare subsidy schemes remain in place.