The National Childcare Scheme is a new, national scheme of financial support to help parents with the cost of quality childcare. The development of the Scheme is a significant move forward in delivering quality, accessible, affordable childcare to families throughout Ireland.
Budget 2019 announced changes to the income thresholds that will operate as part of the National Childcare Scheme when it is introduced later this year.
Under the scheme’s original policy proposals, income-based subsidies would have been available to all families with a net annual income of up to €47,500. This threshold was increased by 26% to cover all families with a net annual income of up to €60,000. The scheme’s lower income threshold was also adjusted upwards, meaning that maximum subsidy rates will now be paid to all families with a net annual income of up to €26,000 (the previous proposed threshold stood at €22,700). These increased thresholds will mean that many more families will benefit from the new National Childcare Scheme once launched, and will see their childcare costs tangibly reduce.
The €50 million referenced by the Deputy refers to the increase in full-year costs of the Scheme in 2020 generated by the Budget 2019 changes. The Government was aware of and had factored in the 2020 full-year cost when it approved the enhancements to the National Childcare Scheme in Budget 2019. The Estimates process for 2020 is the appropriate mechanism to address 2020 costs.
The National Childcare Scheme has been designed to be flexible, with income thresholds, maximum hours and subsidy rates which can be adjusted in line with Government decisions and as investment becomes available. As such, it establishes a sustainable platform for investment in early learning and care and school age childcare for years to come.
The investment referred to in the question addresses affordability for parents. Capacity in the system has doubled in recent years with twice as many early learning and care and school age childcare places available in centred based services. This has been supported by the 117% increase in investment over the last 4 budgets, including annual capital schemes to incentivise the creation of new places. The draft Childminding Action Plan currently being consulted on nationally also aims to increase capacity in the home based sector.