Tuesday, 20 October 2020

Questions (456)

Kathleen Funchion


456. Deputy Kathleen Funchion asked the Minister for Children, Disability, Equality and Integration the way in which the Pobal overpayments were calculated; and if a service can be given a breakdown of the figure if requested. [31632/20]

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Written answers (Question to Children)

The DCYA-led Temporary Wage Subsidy Childcare Scheme (TWSCS) was launched on 15 April as a unique, sector specific response to the COVID-19 crisis. While the scheme's operational details were being finalised, to assist with cashflow challenges, preliminary payments were paid in advance to providers to enable them retain their staff and cover some overhead costs. The preliminary payments were based on estimates of each individual service’s staff, in advance of the more detailed TWSCS subsidy calculations, and primarily based on pre-covid staffing levels. It emerged subsequently that such staffing levels were not maintained by some providers and this has resulted in excess funding.

At present, Pobal are undergoing a reconciliation process between the final subsidy amount actually due to providers and the preliminary payments that were made. The process is expected to conclude in late October.

The final overpayment amount will be communicated to providers from late October. There are a number of providers where issues have been identified with their application. Those providers will be given the opportunity to correct any elements before final payment.

In the meantime, providers can view their current overpayment position by referring to the Contract and Payment Statement TWSCS on PIP (Pobal IT system). The TWSCS contract value is provided, along with the amount paid, resulting in a balance due. If the balance due is negative, it indicates an overpayment position.

Due to pressures providers face at the beginning of any programme year, my Department decided to hold off recoupment until November. The overpayments will be offset against beneficiary funding payments due to be paid to providers then. For providers due more than one payment in November, we will spread the amount involved against all their payments to lessen the impact.

It is acknowledged that some providers may require special or alternative arrangements due to ongoing cashflow difficulties. My Department and Pobal are prepared to be flexible in supporting providers who may struggle with recoupment and Pobal will be available to work closely with these providers.

Government has provided an estimated €180m to the childcare sector in 2020 above and beyond the normal childcare budget; this is alongside parental fees. A further €60m is due in the first quarter of 2021 under the EWSS. All these supports are expected to meet the needs of the vast majority of providers. If however a provider continues to experience viability issues, my Department has put in place a new Sustainability Fund. This will assist providers (not-for-profit and for-profit) struggling with an imminent threat to the viability of their service arising from a decline in occupancy and/or demonstrated increase in costs due to the COVID-19 Pandemic that has not been addressed by all other measures. Details on eligibility and how to apply for the new sustainability fund are available on the Pobal provider platform. In the meantime, the Department encourages providers seeking further advice and support to contact their City/ County Childcare Committee in the first instance.