Extra €150m for childcare scheme not a done deal, says Fine Gael

TD Alan Farrell had suggested increase in subsidy could be allocated in October budget

Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe: “No decisions have been made in respect of Budget 2018,” said a spokeswoman for Mr Donohoe. Photograph: Gareth Chaney Collins

Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe: “No decisions have been made in respect of Budget 2018,” said a spokeswoman for Mr Donohoe. Photograph: Gareth Chaney Collins

 

Fine Gael has attempted to clear up confusion over the Government’s childcare subsidy scheme after one of its TDs indicated it could be in line for an extra €150 million in October’s budget.

Alan Farrell, the chair of the Oireachtas Children’s Committee, seemed to suggest at a Fine Gael promotional event that the scheme could be allocated the increase by Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe.

Mr Farrell, a Dublin Fingal deputy who was fronting the event for Fine Gael, also suggested that the universal allowance paid to parents for every child they have in childcare will be increased by €15 per month, up from €80 to €95.

A spokesman for Minister for Children Katherine Zappone said that, while she is seeking more money from Mr Donohoe, “no figures or details have been agreed”.

“Negotiations on Budget 2018 are only beginning,” the spokesman added.

A spokeswoman for Mr Donohoe said: “No decisions have been made in respect of Budget 2018.” Mr Donohoe was at the event but did not speak to the media.

‘Almost doubled’

Mr Farrell said the allocation for childcare has “almost been doubled in the past two budgets”.

“It’s gone from €250 million up to €466 million and will in fact go up to €620 million from this coming budget.”

He later suggested that the funding would increase by another €150 million, which he said was “absolutely brand new money”. Mr Farrell was again asked if the €150 million was new money or was carry-over costs from the last budget.

“Extra money, yes,” he said. “In order to meet the schemes we are rolling out. I am not aware that is a carry-over from last year. You’d have to ask the press office in the Department of Children.”

Mr Farrell and Fine Gael later said the €150 million was referring to the full-year cost of the scheme, as announced in the last budget and being rolled out from September. “The 2018 figures are subject to the estimates process,” a Fine Gael spokeswoman added.

Childcare payment

Mr Farrell was also asked if the €80 maximum monthly universal childcare payment will increase in the budget.

“It’s going up to €95,” he replied, mistakenly. The maximum universal payment works out at €20 per week for a child in full-time childcare, classified as at least five hours of childcare per day with a registered childcare provider. It reduces pro rata for less time.

In addition, targeted subsidies of up to €7,500 per annum per child will be delivered to those families in most need.

Mr Farrell and Fine Gael later said his reference to the €95 was for the latter, targeted scheme.

“The targeted measure to support low-income families, which is subject to a means test, currently sees eligible families receiving subsidies of up to €95 per week. From September they may receive as much as €145 per week, at the highest level.”