Further funding announced for community childcare

 

The Government has announced new funding arrangements for community childcare facilities which will allow working parents on low incomes to continue to receive subsidised childcare.

Under plans announced earlier this year only parents on social welfare or availing of the Family Income Supplement were guaranteed entitlement to subsidised community-based childcare facilities. However, the Government's plans attracted strong resistance from providers, parents and politicians who warned it would reinforce welfare dependency among parents and cause hardship for working parents on low incomes.

Minister for Children Brendan Smith announced yesterday that following a review of the new funding arrangements, there will be further increases in subvention rates for parents on welfare and a new band of subvention aimed at low income parents.

The tiered system of charges which will operate in community childcare facilities mean that:

• Parents on social welfare will receive a €100 a week subvention for childcare, up from €80 a week;

• Parents on Family Income Supplement will see the benefit increase from €30 a week to €70 a week;

• Low income parents who are above the threshold for the supplement will receive €45 a week.

These new tiered payments must be introduced in community childcare providers from July of next year. The money will go directly to childcare providers.

The announcement was welcomed by the Irish Preschool Playgroups Association whose director Peggy Walker said: "The fact that the Minister has listened to and acknowledged the contribution and the sheer passion of the voluntary sector to childcare is all good news and many of our members will be very relieved going into the New Year."

Some 40 per cent of community childcare providers will receive significant increases in direct funding under the new scheme while others may receive either similar or lesser amounts.

As a result, Mr Smith said that "transitional funding" guaranteeing current grant levels will continue to be supplied to providers until July of 2008. Subsequently, grants for some may fall to not less than 90 per cent of their current level between July and December 2008; not less than 85 per cent of that amount in 2009; and not less than 75 per cent of that amount in 2010.

Mr Smith insists that the announcement is not a U-turn and that he had stated that changes would be made to the scheme.