Thursday, 11 February 2021

Questions (208)

Neale Richmond

Question:

208. Deputy Neale Richmond asked the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth his plans to review the sponsorship scheme in place for children to receive childcare sponsored through Tusla given that for many providers the contribution per child does not cover the provider’s running costs and they are at a loss by taking on these children; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7630/21]

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Written answers (Question to Children)

The National Childcare Scheme represents the first ever statutory entitlement to financial support for childcare in Ireland, establishing a system of universal and income-related subsidies for children up to the age of 15.

A 117% increase in investment over the last number of years has led to a doubling in the number of children receiving free or subsidised early learning and care and school-age childcare.

First 5, A Whole-of-Government Strategy for Babies, Young Children and their Families 2019-2028 builds on significant developments in the sector, aiming to ensure accessible, affordable, high-quality ELC for all children.

Among key strategic actions in First 5 is the development of a new funding model for ELC and SAC, which seeks to address issues of accessibility. First 5 also sets out a commitment to develop a DEIS type model will create further opportunities to narrow the gap for disadvantaged children.

As the Deputy is aware Section 14 of the Childcare Support Act 2018 make special provision for vulnerable children. This Sponsorship arrangement available within the NCS offers additional supports for families with complex needs.

The need for a sponsored referral is a determination for the relevant Sponsor Body and one they make based on the particular need of the child in line with their defined criteria as set out in the Childcare Support Act 2018.

The NCS will pay the full cost of the childcare for families referred to the Scheme by a sponsor body up to a maximum of €193.95 – €264.15 depending on the age of the child and the hours needed. Sponsored children can qualify for up to 45 hours of childcare per week.

The same rates are paid in respect of sponsorship by all of the Sponsor Bodies. The sponsor rates are 15% above the rates set for non-Sponsor NCS awards.

Sponsor

Age

0-1 year

1-3 years

3 years- school age

School age

Rate per hour

€5.87

€5

€4.54

€4.31

Max 45 hours

€264.15

€225

€204.30

€193.95

The latest available Early Years Sector Profile Fees Data indicates that the national average childcare fees charged for full day care are €195.51 for 0-1 year olds, €189.68 for 1-2 year olds, €186.01 for 2-3 year olds, €184.39 for 3-4 year olds, €183.43 for 4-5 year olds, and €169.64 for 5-6 year olds.

As indicated by the table above, the rates paid for sponsored children under the NCS are higher than the national average for fees charged by childcare providers.

Childcare providers are responsible for setting their fees. Neither the DCEDIY nor the Scheme Administrator has any role in the setting of fees by childcare service providers. Childcare providers are encouraged to discuss the rates and hours needed with the family in advance of offering a child a place.

Where a provider decides they cannot accept a sponsored child, the family will need to find a childcare provider who will accept NCS Sponsor children. Their local CCC will be able to help with this, and their contact details are available at https://myccc.ie/.

For any childcare providers with sustainability concerns, DCEDIY oversees a Case Management process through which local CCCs and Pobal work together to assess and provide support to early learning and care services experiencing difficulties. This can include help with completing and interpreting analysis of staff ratios, fee setting and cash flow, as well as more specialised advice and support appropriate to individual circumstances. I would encourage any providers concerned about the sustainability of their service to contact their local CCC.

We are considering all issues raised with us in respect of the NCS both in the context of the 12 month review and the overall effectiveness of the NCS in meeting its objectives.