Thursday, 22 February 2018

Ceisteanna (22)

Niamh Smyth

Ceist:

22. Deputy Niamh Smyth asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the status of the affordable childcare scheme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8863/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

The development of the Affordable Childcare Scheme (ACS) entails a programme of work encompassing legislative, ICT, governance, administrative and communications work-streams.  Significant progress continues to be made across all these areas.  

Of particular significance, the Childcare Support Bill was published in December 2017 and completed Second Stage in the Dáil on 31st January.  A Request for Tender for the development of the Scheme’s ICT system was also published on 31st January, with tenders due to be submitted by 26th March.

Other preparations in relation to governance, administration and communications for the ACS are progressing as follows:

- a contract has been awarded to provide expertise in the development of a robust Governance and Compliance Framework for the ACS and work is underway;

- data-sharing arrangements with the Office of the Revenue Commissioners and the Department of Employment and Social Protection are advancing on schedule;

- a Data Protection Strategy has been developed, following a Data Privacy Impact Assessment and liaison with the Office of the Data Protection Commissioner;

- An ACS Communications and Engagement Strategy has been approved to ensure that parents, providers and others who need to know about the scheme will do so;

- Standard Operating Procedures and proposals for Scheme Administrator staffing and structures are also under development; and

- An Independent Review into the Cost of Delivery of Quality Childcare is underway.

The timescale for the introduction of the Affordable Childcare Scheme is dependent on the development of the ICT system.  Accordingly, until such time as an ICT vendor is in place to build the system, and agrees a delivery timeframe, it is not possible to confirm and communicate a definitive start date for the scheme. 

However, the existing childcare schemes and supports, including the enhancements introduced last September, will remain in place for the childcare programme year which begins this September (2018). The vast majority of those eligible for support under the Affordable Childcare Scheme, and the initial income thresholds agreed for its introduction,  are currently receiving financial support on par with what they will receive when ACS launches.  Over 67,000 (96% of the estimated eligible children) are availing of these enhanced supports and the number increases week on week. This includes the families of 32,000 children who are receiving the benefit of the new universal subsidy (97% of the estimated uptake).

Finally, in recognition of the administrative role which childcare services play in delivering Government schemes and other non-contact work, €18m in funding was paid to services in 2017 and will remain in place for 2018.