Budget 2022 announced the introduction of a new Core Funding stream with an allocation of €69 million in 2022 for the September to December period, equivalent to €207 million in a full year.
The details of Core Funding were further articulated in Partnership for the Public Good: A New Funding Model for Early Learning and Care and School-Age Childcare published in December.
Core Funding will be available to Early Learning and Care (ELC) and School Age Childcare (SAC) providers for the 2022/2023 programme year, subject to an Employment Regulation Order being agreed by the Joint Labour Committee and coming into effect.
Core Funding is designed to achieve a number of policy objectives simultaneously:
- To support providers to improve quality, principally by improving pay and conditions as the most significant issue impacting on quality
- To improve affordability for parents by ensuring that fees do not increase
- To contribute to providers’ stability and sustainability
The amount of money available to providers will be determined by information on their annual service hours; total service capacity per age range offered; the number of graduate Lead Educators in early years rooms in the service; and if the service has an ELC graduate as the service manager.
Allocations for Core Funding will therefore be based on service capacity and not on child registrations and attendance levels. Capacity is the number of childcare places a service can provide while adhering to the requirements under the Regulations for age ranges/session types/ratios.
This type of funding alongside the existing schemes will contribute to services’ stability and sustainability.
The existing schemes will continue to operate alongside Core Funding with funding distributed based on child registrations and attendance.
The amount payable under Core Funding will be determined at the start of the programme year and will be paid to providers in equal instalments over a 12 month period, and will not fluctuate based on children’s attendance as it is determined by capacity.
Conditions of the contract include maintaining fees at or below September 2021 rates, participating in data collection exercises and offering the National Childcare Scheme (part time/full time/SAC services) and the Early Childhood Care and Education programme (sessional services) to parents.
A Ready Reckoner to support services to determine the potential value of Core Funding to their service will be available in early March.
This will be followed by:
- Stage 1 of the Application process, a data collection survey in April
- Stage 2 of the Application process, providers will be able to define their service’s capacity through an online application process which will be open in May
- Contracting in June
- Payments will flow to providers from the end of August
In the interim period in advance of Core Funding, significant additional investment is being made in the sector through the Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme (EWSS), which will remain available to the sector until April 2022, with a continued exemption to the turnover rule for employers in the sector. Following the cessation of EWSS, a once-off Transition Fund will operate from May to August 2022, to support providers in the period leading up to the new Core Funding stream, in return for a commitment not to increase fees from September 2021 levels. The sum paid to each service under the Transition Fund will depend on the service’s capacity and location, and will reflect opening hours.