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National Childcare Scheme

Dáil Éireann Debate, Wednesday - 28 April 2021

Wednesday, 28 April 2021

Ceisteanna (698)

Gerald Nash

Ceist:

698. Deputy Ged Nash asked the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth if his attention has been drawn to the impact on the viability and continuation of services (details supplied) in County Louth arising from the impact of the new national childcare scheme on community-based after-school provision; his views on whether changes to the scheme will have a negative impact on the schemes; the way in which he plans to address these issues; if his attention has been further drawn to the recommendations of the report carried out by a person on behalf of the Department of Justice as they relate to the remit of his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21441/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

I thank the Deputy for his question. I am aware of the report referred to by the Deputy, which includes recommendations of relevance to a number of areas falling under my remit. In relation to the specific points raised in this Parliamentary Question, I would draw the Deputy's attention to the following.

The National Childcare Scheme represents a significant step forward in combatting the poverty traps of previous targeted childcare schemes. It removes many of the restrictive eligibility requirements, for example, dependency on Social Protection payments.

Under the NCS 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.

The NCS supports the strong benefits of Early Learning and Care for disadvantaged children. Importantly, the evidence also shows that these benefits are, in most cases, realised even with part-time participation.

Over 99,400 applications have been submitted for the National Childcare Scheme, relating to over 95,200 children. 52,346 children have received NCS subsidies since the programme launched.

As of 20th April 2021:

- 3,024 childcare providers have contracted to provide the NCS.

- 99,450 active applications have been submitted.

- There have been 62,287 income-assessed applications submitted, relating to 70,669 children.

- There have been 37,163 universal applications submitted, relating to 38,899 children. 

Additional supports are available for families with complex needs, under the NCS Sponsorship model, which provides additional supports to large numbers of disadvantaged children.  

The need for a sponsored referral is a determination for the relevant Sponsor Body and one they make based on the particular need of the child in line with their defined criteria as set out in the Childcare Support Act 2018. 

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.

As of week ending 18 April 2021, there have been 1982 sponsor applications since scheme launch.

Area

Applications

TUSLA Child and Family Agency

1018

National Homeless Authorities (for Sponsored NCS)

517

Minister for Justice

244

Health Service Executive (HSE)

197

Minister for Education

    6

Total

1982

 

A dedicated phone line and email address has been launched to streamline sponsor contacts with the Scheme Administrator. Contact the NCS Sponsors Team on 01 906 8535 from 9am to 5pm Monday to Friday or by email at sponsors@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.

As an immediate response, support is available to these services through Case Management. My Department oversees a Case Management process through which local CCCs and Pobal work together to assess and provide support to early learning and care services experiencing difficulties. This can include help with completing and interpreting analysis of staff ratios, fee setting and cash flow, as well as more specialised advice and support appropriate to individual circumstances.

Financial supports, which may also be accessed through the Case Management process, are available for community services presenting with sustainability issues following a financial assessment by Pobal.

Pobal co-ordinate the overall case management process with the CCC administering initial, and on-going, case management assistance. Pobal will verify the service’s necessity for a financial intervention. All services who require support should contact their local CCC in the first instance.

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