The National Childcare Scheme, which was introduced in 2019, provides supports for school aged childcare. Under the extended NCS hours introduced in September of this year, parents may avail of 45 subsidised childcare hours when the parents are engaged in work, training or study, and they may avail of 20 subsidised hours if they are not engaged in work, training or study.
The NCS was designed in this way to meet anti-poverty objectives, by encouraging parents to enter work or training. The definition of work is extremely broad, covering all forms of work arrangements: full-time, part-time, week-on/ week-off and zero hour contracts. The definition of study is also broad, and allows parents to access 45 hours of childcare when completing any NFQ qualification, from level 1, for even a small number of hours per week.
I was pleased to increase the number of subsidised hours from September this year, partly to address the concerns of providers.
Additional supports are available for families with complex needs, under the NCS Sponsorship model, which provides additional supports to large numbers of disadvantaged children.
Once a child meets the criteria for sponsorship by a given Sponsor Body, the child can automatically avail of up to 45 hours per week. More information on sponsors is available at www.ncs.gov.ie.
The NCS is designed to be highly inclusive, to meet the needs of the most economically vulnerable children and those living with other forms of disadvantage. I will keep the Scheme under review, and I will continue to work with my officials to identify whether any refinements are needed to ensure that it delivers for those most in need.