Thursday, 22 February 2018

Ceisteanna (30)

Jack Chambers

Ceist:

30. Deputy Jack Chambers asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs if her attention has been drawn to the fact that childcare costs continue to pose a serious financial challenge for families; the measures she will introduce to address same; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8986/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

The factors impacting on the costs across delivery of services in any sector are complex and multifaceted. The cost to childcare providers is affected by many factors such as rates, rent, labour costs, and insurance amongst other things.

In September 2017 this Government introduced a number of measures to make childcare more affordable for families in Ireland.

These measures involved:

- A new, universal (non-means tested) subsidy for all children in Tusla-registered childcare aged between 6 months until they are eligible for the ECCE programme, which amounts to up to €1,040 per year for children in full-time childcare.

- Significant increases, of up to 50%, in targeted childcare subsidies provided under existing childcare schemes, specifically the Community Childcare Subvention (CCS) and Training and Employment Childcare (TEC) Schemes (subsidies available of up to €145 per week, per child).

DCYA undertook a comprehensive information campaign to increase parents’ awareness of the new and increased childcare subsidies available, and to encourage childcare providers to take part in the schemes.

Currently, the families of over 32,000 children are benefitting from the new universal subsidy, while the families of over 34,000 children are enjoying enhanced targeted subsidies.

This means that over 66,700 children, or 96% of the estimated 70,000 expected to avail of the measures, have registered for support, and the door remains open to parents to apply.

These measures will remain in place in September 2018 to support families until the launch of the Affordable Childcare Scheme.

In order to recognise the additional administrative demands these measures place on childcare providers, a budget of €3.5m in Programme Support Payments (formerly known as ‘Non-Contact Time Payments’) was announced to support providers who sign up to the schemes in recognition of their ‘non-contact time’ and administrative responsibilities.

This payment, which was made in late December 2017, was in addition to the €14.5m Programme Support Payment secured in Budget 2017 for ‘non-contact time’ during the period September 2016-August 2017. A further €18m in Programme Support Payments has been secured for 2018.

Aside from the above measures, over 89,000 children were approved for the free-preschool scheme in September 2017. More children joined in January 2018 and more again will join in April 2018. It is expected that in total about 119,000 children will benefit from ECCE again in 2018.

From September 2018, the three entry points will stop and all children will be eligible for 2 full academic years (76 weeks) of ECCE once the child meets the minimum age requirement.

The new measures, from September 2018, will fully benefit those born from 2015 onwards, whilst those born previous to that year will continue to benefit from the expanded programme announced in Budget 2016. (The average entitlement for the last year to ECCE was approximately 61 weeks. When ECCE was first introduced the entitlement was to 38 weeks.)

A 7% increase in the capitation rate paid to childcare providers for children enrolled on the ECCE Scheme will also come into effect in September 2018.

In total, there are over 170,000 children currently receiving DCYA childcare subventions and this is expected to grow to approximately 180,000 by April.

The first ever Independent Review into the Cost of Delivery of Quality Childcare is underway and will inform our future policy decisions in this area.