My Department operates a number of Early Learning and Care (ELC) and School Age Childcare (SAC)schemes to assist all parents, including frontline workers, with childcare needs. The main supports are set out below.
The National Childcare Scheme (NCS)
The NCS was introduced in November 2019. It offers a statutory entitlement to financial support for childcare. It establishes an equitable and progressive system of universal and income-related subsidies for children up to the age of 15.
NCS subsidies are awarded as an hourly rate for a maximum number of hours per week. The maximum number of subsidised hours available to families increased in September 2020.
The maximum number of hours for an enhanced award, for parents who are working, studying or training, has increased from 40 to 45 hours. For parents who are not working, studying or training, the maximum for a standard award has increased from 15 to 20 hours.
The NCS comprises two types of subsidies:
- Universal Subsidy
- All families with children under age 3 in registered childcare, or children who are over age 3 and have not yet qualified for the free preschool (ECCE) programme, can apply. This subsidy is not means tested, and provides up to €20 per week, or €1,040 per year, off the cost of a registered childcare place.
- Income Assessed
Families with children aged between 24 weeks and 15 years who are attending registered childcare services and who have a reckonable household income (net) of less than €60,000 can apply for an Income Assessed subsidy. Subsidy rates are tailored based on individual circumstances, such as reckonable family income, child’s age and educational stage.
The highest subsidy rate is €5.10 per hour for a baby living in a family with a household income of less than €26,000 per year, or €229 per week. The maximum subsidy for a school age child is €3.75 per hour per week.
More information on the NCS is available to parents by contacting the Parent Support Centre on 01 906 8530, Monday to Friday 9am-5pm, or to online www.ncs.gov.ie.
Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE)
Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) is a free universal two year pre-school programme.
ECCE provides children with their first formal experience of early learning prior to commencing primary school. The programme is provided for three hours per day, five days per week over 38 weeks per year and the programme year runs from September to June.
A child must have reached 2 years and 8 months of age on or prior to 31 August of the relevant programme year to be eligible for the September start date and a child cannot turn 5 years and 6 months of age during the course of the ECCE programme year.
Finally, my Department funds 30 City/County Childcare Committees (CCCs), located nationwide, who support and assist families with ELC/SAC matters at a local county/city level. Local CCCs provide information and assistance regarding support that may be available to families with regard to their specific circumstances. Contact details for CCCs may be found on www.myccc.ie.