The NCS was launched in November 2019. There are currently 33,700 children accessing NCS subsidies. In addition, there are children benefiting from the legacy schemes also.
The online application process was designed to be accessible and user-friendly, although I acknowledge that not everybody found it so. The flexibility of the NCS means that the scheme is designed to recognise that each family's childcare needs are different and, depending on the particular application type and family circumstances of an applicant, the processing time can vary between applications.
For income-based applications, the quickest way for a parent to have income assessed is to use the Fast Track option online. Fast Track assessment gathers information from the Revenue Commissioners and the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection for the most recent year for which full income information is available. A parent can choose not to use the Fast Track assessment if he or she wants - for example, if his or her income decreased significantly in the previous tax year or if he or she wants to opt out of automatic assessment. This will require the parent to upload documents to support the application. The NCS advises parents choosing this option that the assessment will take longer to process than Fast Track assessments.
Applications take longer to process where the scheme administrator is awaiting further documents to be submitted by the applicant. Subsidies can only be paid when an application is successfully completed, a childcare identifier code key, CHICK, has been registered with a childcare provider and the parent has confirmed on the system that all the details are correct. It is a key aspect of the scheme that all claims are paid in arrears based on the attendance of a child. This is a key financial and governance control to ensure we are maximising the benefits of public moneys and that the investment is following the child. Once the process is completed, parents and providers can access subsidies of up to €200 per child, per week, for many years. The process being adopted is, in general, fair to parents and providers.