I am pleased to be able to assure the Deputy that arrangements are in place to ensure no one will lose out in the initial transition to the new national childcare scheme. Families can continue to access their current targeted supports, remaining on their existing payment if they so wish, until the end of August 2020. They include parents availing of the community employment childcare scheme. The national childcare scheme will greatly increase the number of families who can access financial support and see many families qualify for a higher level of support. The scheme removes many of the restrictive eligibility requirements of the existing programmes, whereby a parent must be in receipt of certain social protection payments or a medical card to receive targeted supports. In this way, it aims to combat the poverty traps within the existing schemes and ensure taking a job is not a disincentive.
I have worked to poverty-proof the scheme by ensuring families at or below the relative income poverty line will benefit from the highest subsidy rates. Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, OECD, analysis finds that the scheme will significantly address affordability for lower income families, with one analysis showing that Ireland will change from being the most expensive country in the OECD for childcare for lone parents to the 11th position. The new scheme is designed to be flexible, with income thresholds, subsidy rates and maximum hours designed in order that they can be adjusted over time as more investment becomes available. The hours and thresholds published have been costed and funded, but they can be enhanced in future years. The existence of the saver mechanism for the first year gives us time to monitor the position and ascertain if further policy change is required. As such, the scheme provides the pathway to quality, affordable and accessible childcare. It is central to my commitment to changing the childcare system to ensure it is the best.