Progress on childcare costs a bright spot amid housing and health crises

Inside Politics: Parents using childminders set to be brought into subsidy scheme by 2024

With the seemingly perma-crises in housing and health it can be easy to forget there are areas where the Coalition has made some progress.

Efforts to tackle the huge issue of childcare costs are quietly continuing.

It may be too late for some parents who have dealt with costs amounting to a second mortgage in the years before their children started school but the first significant decrease in childcare costs in years kicked in at the start of January.

The subsidy available under the National Childcare Scheme (NCS) increased from 50 cent per hour to €1.40 per hour which the Government believes will represent a reduction of fees of up to 25 per cent for some families.


The intention is to reduce fees further with Minister for Children Roderic O’Gorman saying last month he wants the average cut to amount to 50 per cent after the next budget depending on the public finances.

As we report in our lead, today’s Cabinet meeting is expected to see further progress in the area.

Subsidies for thousands of parents using childminders will be a step closer if Ministers approve plans for legislation aimed at paving the way for the future regulation of the sector.

People whose children are in creches are able to avail of NCS subsidies but many thousands of parents using childminders are not.

Childminders who are not registered with Tusla, the child and family agency, cannot be considered for the scheme.

There is no centralised registration system for childminders, who typically work in people’s homes, but it is estimated there are 15,000 in Ireland. Fewer than 80 were registered with Tusla as of last September.

Mr O’Gorman is expected to seek Cabinet approval to bring forward legislation designed to change the legal status of childminders to make future regulation possible and to allow for the scheme to be opened to more parents.

Ultimately the plan is for childminders to go through a registration process.

It could be 2024 before parents using them will be able to access subsidies available under the NCS, but today’s Cabinet considerations are seen as the first step on that road.

Separately, Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly is expected to brief ministerial colleagues on the situation in hospital emergency departments and also seek approval to set up an inter-departmental group to examine the rising cost of healthcare-related compensation claims.

The Cabinet is also to be updated on the Department of Social Protection’s expenditure management report which shows a €2 billion surplus in the Social Insurance Fund by the end of 2022.

And Tánaiste Micheál Martin is to outline how events to mark the 25th anniversary of the Belfast Agreement will not focus on a specific date but will take place across the year.

No word yet however on whether commemorations of the historic Northern Ireland peace deal – signed on Good Friday, April 10th, 1998 – will include a visit from US president Joe Biden.

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The Cabinet meets this morning while the Dáil kicks off with Leaders’ Questions at 2pm.

Government business includes statements on last month’s European Council meeting.

A Sinn Féin Private Members’ Motion on the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (Camhs) will be debated from 6pm. It comes after an interim report by the Mental Health Commission identified serious risk to the safety and well-being of children including 140 “with open cases [who had] been lost to follow-up”.

Tánaiste Micheál Martin is due to take questions on his foreign affairs brief from 8pm.

Topical Issues will be raised by TDs from 9.30pm.

The Committee on Education meets from 11am to be briefed by officials on school building work.

The Justice Committee continues its pre-legislative scrutiny of the Sale of Alcohol Bill which is to liberalise pub licensing laws. TDs and Senators will hear from Alcohol Action Ireland, the Mandate trade union and the National Transport Authority among others. Our Industry Correspondent Emmet Malone tees-up the meeting, writing about how Mandate will call for protections for bar staff to be put in place as part of any legislative reform of the licensing laws.

Click the links for the full Dáil, Seanad and Committee schedules. To ensure you continue to receive Inside Politics, add the email address you receive the newsletter from to your safe senders list.