State considers radical plan to help pay for childcare
Means-tested scheme is expected to be rolled out over a number of years from September
Budget 2017: It is envisaged that income thresholds would rise over a number of budgets to include higher-earning families. Photograph: Getty Images
A radical new system of subsidised childcare that would mean the State pays a portion of a family’s bills directly to childcare providers is under consideration for next month’s budget.
The means-tested scheme is expected to be rolled out over a number of years, starting next September. It will begin by covering lower-income families which in some cases could see almost all of their childcare costs covered.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny and other Ministers were briefed on its outline yesterday and an initial, indicative figure of € 47,000 income per couple was used – but sources stressed this was only an example and will not be the initial threshold that will apply when the plan is announced.
The plan from Minister for Children Katherine Zappone will be designed in such a way, however, that the level of subsidies can be easily increased or reduced should a government wish to do so.
It will be made possible because Ms Zappone intends to introduce standardised regulations for all providers who want to participate in the scheme.
They would then choose a participating childcare provider. The State would pay the subsidy directly to the provider, with the parents paying the remainder of the bill.
It envisages higher subsidies for lower-income families – covering as much as 100 per cent of childcare bills – which would drop off as parental income rose. The thresholds will be determined by the amount of money allocated in budgetary negotiations over the next month and it is intended that income thresholds will rise over a number of budgets.
The system has been designed to be user friendly with the Government keen to avoid a repeat of the mistakes that dogged the introduction of the student grant website, Susi.
It is envisaged that income thresholds would rise over a number of budgets to include higher-earning families. The highest earners would receive no subsidy, it is understood.