The Affordable Childcare Scheme will provide childcare subsidies for both full-time and part-time childcare. For the universal element of the Scheme, up to 40 hours of support per week will be available, regardless of whether parents are working or not. For the targeted element of the Scheme, the number of hours of childcare subsidised per week will be capped at a maximum of 40 hours for families where both parents (or one parent in the case of a one-parent family) is engaged in work or study, and 15 hours per week for families in which a parent is at home and is not engaged in either work or study.
Parents availing of subsidies under the scheme – whether for part-time or for full-time childcare – will be subsidised on the basis of the amount of childcare used, with the subsidy per hour determined by the age of the child and the family income. Recognising the importance of flexibility to families, arrangements in terms of the numbers of hours per day or days per week of childcare that is used will be a matter for parents to decide, depending on the childcare options available to them locally. The scheme will inform parents of their eligibility and the parents will then provide this information to the childcare provider they have accessed to meet their needs.
The Childcare Support Bill 2017, as published, will give the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs a regulation-making power in relation to the definitions of “work” and “study” for the purposes of the Affordable Childcare Scheme. I intend to prescribe a definition of “work” that is broad and inclusive, recognising the diversity of progression routes towards labour market participation. In particular, as stated in the Heads of Bill and General Scheme published last year, I intend the definition to include people who are required to be available for work even if they do not work regular hours, thus enabling persons on zero and variable hour contracts to benefit from subsidies under the Affordable Childcare Scheme.
The measures put in place last September to make childcare more affordable are currently benefitting the families of more than 66,000 children and will remain in place until the Affordable Childcare Scheme launches.