The National Childcare Scheme opened on November 20th for online applications. I am delighted that there has been a very high volume of applications. As of the 9th December over 12,000 applications have been submitted, relating to over 17,000 children and thousands of awards have issued to parents. Parents must bring this award to their childcare provider and once their provider has registered the details, payments will begin to flow.
As of 5th December, the following numbers of children had been approved for the legacy schemes which will remain available until children age out or parents are no longer eligible:-
The National Childcare Scheme is designed to improve the accessibility and affordability of quality childcare for families. By replacing the legacy schemes, the Scheme will increase the number of families who can avail of subsidised childcare, and remove many of the restrictive eligibility requirements of the existing support programmes, whereby a parent had to be in receipt of certain Social Protection payments or a Medical Card in order to receive targeted supports.
In this way, the NCS aims to combat the poverty traps which may exist within the existing schemes, and to appropriately incentivise employment and education or training for parents, a policy objective that is known to benefit child and family outcomes.
Leaving the current targeted schemes open indefinitely to new applications would undermine these important policy objectives and would create a considerable administrative overhead for providers.
It would also undermine the significant work done to build a system which greatly improves the governance and compliance associated with the use of Exchequer funds.
Notwithstanding this, I have committed to ensuring that no one loses out in the transition to the new scheme through the “saver” arrangements. This means that persons registered on the CCSP or TEC schemes before they close, and who retain their eligibility, will be able to remain on them indefinitely.
New applications for CCSP closed on 15th November, and applications to the TEC schemes will close from 14th February 2020. Parents using the saver arrangement can move over to the NCS at any point. The Parent Information line can help parents to understand which scheme will serve their family better.
I would finally note that my Department will be continually monitoring the scheme and will examine any adjustments which might be required.