The Community Childcare Subvention (CCS) Programme supports disadvantaged parents, parents in low paid employment and parents in training or education, by enabling those who qualify to avail of reduced childcare costs at participating community/not-for-profit childcare services.
Due to economic constraints, Budget 2012 closed the CCS Programme to new applications from community/not-for-profit childcare services wishing to enter the CCS Programme and to the expansion of services by existing CCS providers. Under Budget 2016, I lifted these restrictions as part of a major package of strategic investment in affordable, quality and accessible childcare. This package included a further €16m investment in the expansion of the CCS Programme, to include its roll-out to private childcare providers, in a targeted manner.
CCS expansion will be rolled out in phases. Phase 1, which took effect in October 2015, lifted the expansion restriction within existing CCS services. Phase 2 expanded the CCS Programme to other community/not-for-profit childcare providers not currently under contract to deliver the CCS Programme. Phase 2 was announced on 10th November 2015 and applications are currently being processed. Phase 3 will come into effect in early 2016 and will make up to a further 8,000 places available in areas identified as being in significant need of CCS provision. Providers of these CCS places will include existing community not-for-profit childcare providers, and for the first time, private childcare providers where gaps in provision exist.
In recognition of the significant barriers childcare presents to parents wanting to take up employment, education or training, and the complexities of working through the different childcare programmes funded by my Department, the Budget 2016 package also funded the establishment of a dedicated Project Team to develop a single Affordable Childcare Programme to provide working families with good quality childcare at a cost they can afford. Work on the Affordable Childcare Programme will begin immediately, so that it can be in place in 2017. This single programme will replace the existing CCS, along with the Training and Employment Childcare (TEC) programmes, comprising the After-School Childcare (ASCC), Childcare Education and Training Support (CETS), and Community Employment Childcare (CEC). It will provide a new simplified subsidy programme, available through both community/not-for-profit and private childcare providers. As more investment is made available over the coming years, it can be directed to families through this subsidised programme. The objective is to make childcare more affordable for more families.
In Budget 2016 it was announced that, from September 2016, children will be eligible to start free pre-school when they turn age 3, and can continue in free pre-school until they start primary school (once the child is not older than 5½ years at the end of the relevant pre-school year i.e. end June).
Currently, children are entitled to one year's free pre-school (i.e. 38 weeks during the pre-school year) under the Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) programme. Until September 2016, it is current eligibility that determines access to free pre-school. A child who has already benefited from that entitlement in 2014/2015 will not therefore be eligible to re-register for free pre-school.