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After-school costs set to rise significantly for many better off families

Childcare providers warn that new adult-staff ratios will increase costs

Minister Children and Youth Affairs Katharine Zappone. A spokesman for the Minister said that “overall” her department did not expect to see an increase in “average” school-age childcare fees. Photograph: Eric Luke

Aftercare costs for school children are set to climb by up to 40 per cent for many upper- and middle-income parents, childcare providers have warned.

New regulations due to come into force ahead of the new school year mean school-age childcare providers will be obliged to have one adult for every 12 children on their premises.

A number of aftercare providers say they will need to hire additional staff and costs will rise by up to 40 per cent as a result. Other providers say they will need to reduce the number of places on offer in order to continue to operate.

The new rules relate to aftercare operators who are participating in the State’s new national childcare scheme. This provides income-based subsidies to parents who are availing of aftercare for school-aged children.

Under the scheme, parents with a net income of less than €60,000 per year are are entitled to means-tested subsidies of up to €145 per week per child.

Reckonable income is calculated by taking net family income and deducting allowable costs such as discounts for multiple children, pension contributions and certain social welfare payments.

While those on low to middle incomes will in most cases see a reduction in costs, families with middle to higher incomes will in many cases face higher costs because they are not entitled to subsidies.

A spokesman for Minister Children and Youth Affairs Katharine Zappone said that “overall” it did not expect to see an increase in “average” school-age childcare fees.

“Already over 80,000 children are receiving extra supports,” the spokesman said. “This includes 40,000 children on targeted supports of up to €145 per child per week up to the age of 15. All of Minister Zappone’s actions are to bring even more benefits to more families.”

Independent experts

He said the new 12:1 ratio was recommended by independent experts, including representatives of providers.

He said a public consultation was under way and anyone facing difficulties with access or fees “should use it as an opportunity to speak up”.

Some after-school providers for vulnerable children have warned they face potential closure on the basis that parents who are not working will no longer be entitled to the same level of targeted financial assistance.

Carlow Regional Youth Services Ltd, for example, provides aftercare for up to 60 children aged eight to 11 who are at risk of not making the transition from primary to secondary. The service has warned the new rules “will close our after-school service and as a result vulnerable children will lose out”.

A spokesman for Ms Zappone said that under the new scheme, low-income parents who are working or studying will qualify for an enhanced-hours subsidy, up to a maximum of 40 hours per week.

Where a parent is not working or studying, the child will still be eligible for the standard hours subsidy of 15 hours per week.

“This approach reflects policy objectives of encouraging labour market activation and reducing child poverty and persistent poverty traps,” the spokesman said.

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