The NCS represents the first ever statutory entitlement to financial support for childcare in Ireland. It is based on the principle of progressive universalism and has regard to the best interests of children.
The Scheme aims to improve outcomes for children, reduce poverty, facilitate labour activation, and tangibly reduce the cost of childcare for tens of thousands of families.
It comprises two types of subsidies:
- A universal subsidy is payable for children between the ages of 24 weeks and 36 months (or until the child qualifies for the Early Childhood Care and Education programme if later) who are availing of childcare services from an approved childcare service provider. The universal subsidy is not means-tested and is available to all qualifying families of any income level.
- An income-related subsidy is payable for children from 24 weeks to 15 years of age who are availing of childcare services from an approved childcare service provider. The level of subsidy is determined by the family’s assessable income (i.e. gross income minus tax, PRSI and other deductibles and minus any applicable multiple child discount).
Families engaged in work or study can qualify for up to 45 hours of subsidised childcare per week. Families not engaged in work or study can qualify for up to 20 hours of subsidised childcare per week.
All children in the State are also entitled to two years of free pre-school provision under the Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) programme. This provides 15 hours of free pre-school per week.
The NCS wraps around the hours a child spends participating in ECCE, so a child can benefit from both ECCE and NCS. During the ECCE term, the NCS hours within their award that exceed the 15 hours used for ECCE can be used throughout the year. Outside of the ECCE term, a family can avail of all eligible hours within their award.
Information on the NCS can be found at www.ncs.gov.ie and by phoning the Parent Support Centre at 01 906 8530. Parents can also contact their local City/County Childcare Committee to learn more about Early Learning and Care and School Age Childcare supports available to them. Parents can find details about their local CCC at www.myccc.ie.