I propose to take Questions Nos. 26 and 43 together.
I acknowledge the incredibly tough year that has been experienced across the sector by providers, childcare professionals, parents and teachers. The sector showed huge resilience in its initial reopening on 29 June and the subsequent reopening in September. It led the way for schools by showing how the public health guidance could be implemented, which gave real confidence that we could apply such guidance in schools.
In the budget this year, I have secured a total of €638 million for early learning and care programmes and initiatives next year. An additional €3.6 million in funding will be allocated to services participating in the action and inclusion model, AIM, in 2021 and this funding will allow for a further 10% increase in the number of children with disabilities who receive targeted supports under AIM, compared with the 2020 funding allocation. In addition, I have secured access for the sector to the employment wage subsidy scheme, EWSS, with a critical exemption to the turnover rule that applies to all other participants in the scheme. This will be worth €60 million for the first three months of next year. It is important to note that the sector received a unique and extensive range of supports in 2020, which is estimated at a value of €180 million above and beyond the childcare budget that was originally in place for 2020. That is indicative of the value and importance that is placed on the sector by me, my Department and the whole Government.
In recent times, the primary focus of my Department has been on sustaining the early learning and school age childcare sector. We have kept services open by funding the additional costs associated with following the public health guidance and lower occupancy and through encouraging greater uptake of childcare places. The key new contributor to the early learning and care, ELC, and school age childcare, SAC, sectors in 2021 is the employment wage subsidy scheme which funds up to €200 per week per staff member. That funding is now secure until 23 March next year, at which point I will continue to work to ensure that the sector is adequately provided for in any successor to the EWSS.
A second key contributor to the sector in 2021 will be to encourage more parents to access safe and more affordable early learning and childcare services. We saw a reduction in demand in 2020 in both numbers and hours but despite that, I retained all funding for childcare in budget 2021, meaning there is funding available now for up to 20,000 new families to join the national childcare scheme and access subsidies of up to €200 per child. There will also be funding for higher subsidies in 2021 for families who avail of the national childcare scheme or other schemes but are now on lower incomes because of Covid-19.
My focus has been on the sustainability of services in the context of Covid-19 throughout the past year, and that will remain my focus in 2021. I will also focus on protecting jobs through supporting staff wages and continuing to invest in schemes that save money for parents.