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Childcare Services

Dáil Éireann Debate, Thursday - 3 February 2022

Thursday, 3 February 2022

Ceisteanna (156, 181)

Holly Cairns

Ceist:

156. Deputy Holly Cairns asked the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth the steps he is taking to address high childcare costs. [5161/22]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire

Ceist:

181. Deputy Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire asked the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth the details of his plans to reduce the cost of childcare for ordinary families. [5365/22]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 156 and 181 together.

The recommendations of an Expert Group to develop a new funding model for early learning and childcare were adopted by Government in December. This marks a new departure in State funding of the sector and is a significant step towards ensuring high-quality, affordable, sustainable and accessible services.

The Expert Group report informed the transformative package of measures for the sector committed in Budget 2022, including the Core Funding stream. Core Funding will operate from September 2022 to support improved quality, affordability, and sustainability.

Core Funding will be worth up to €69 million in 2022, equivalent to €207 million in a full year. It will require a commitment not to increase fees to parents from September 2021 rates. This feature of the scheme will ensure that parents feel the full affordability benefits of the National Childcare Scheme (NCS) and the Early Childhood Care and Education programme.

Since the start of the pandemic, my Department has been aiming to ensure the sustainability of services and prevent the additional costs from public health measures being passed on to parents. These efforts have been successful and average costs to parents have not increased. ELC and SAC employers will continue to benefit from the exemption to the turnover rule for the Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme (EWSS) until April 2022.

From the end of EWSS to the start of Core Funding in September 2022, a Transition Fund will be available to providers. This is also contingent on an agreement not to increase fees from September 2021 levels.

The introduction of fee control measures is one of the recommendations of the Expert Group, and further information on proposed fee management mechanisms in the longer term is available in the Group's report.

Budget 2022 also announced an extension in the age of children who are eligible for the universal NCS subsidy and a change to how 'wraparound hours' for NCS subsidy are determined. These measures were also recommended by the Expert Group.

The fee management system, in tandem with developments to the NCS will together deliver significantly improved affordability for parents.

Budget 2022 began the implementation of the Expert Group’s recommendations. Full implementation of all recommendations will be progressed in the coming years as additional funding is secured through the annual Estimates process.

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