Applications for National Childcare Scheme entitlement to open November 20th
The new scheme, which opens for online applications on November 20th, provides subsidies to help reduce the cost of childcare for families
The National Childcare Scheme is designed to be flexible, recognising that childcare needs are different for each family. Photograph: iStock
The new National Childcare Scheme opens for online applications on Wednesday, November 20th. The scheme is the first ever statutory entitlement to financial support for childcare and it establishes an equitable and progressive system of universal and income-related subsidies for children up to the age of 15. Very importantly, it is accessible through an innovative and user-friendly online application process.
The scheme aims to improve children's outcomes, support lifelong learning, make work pay, and reduce child poverty by providing subsidies to reduce the cost of childcare for families.
The subsidies will be paid directly to the childcare provider and will be available for families with children aged between 24 weeks and 15 years who are attending any participating Tusla registered childcare service, including any Tusla registered childminder and Tusla registered school aged childcare services.
There are two types of subsidies – universal and income assessed.
Universal subsidies are available to all families with children under three years old. They are also available to families with children over three years who have not yet qualified for the Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) free preschool programme. It is not means tested and provides 50 cent per hour towards the cost of a registered childcare place for up to a maximum of 40 hours per week - €1040 a year. A family’s entitlement will typically be calculated within minutes of applying using the scheme’s online system.
Income-assessed subsidies are available to families with children aged between 24 weeks and 15 years with the entitlement based on a sliding scale dependent on a family’s particular circumstances.
The payment varies depending on family income, the age and educational stage of the child, and the number of children in the family. The subsidy can be used towards the cost of a registered childcare place for up to a maximum of 40 hours for parents who are working, studying or training, or in other circumstances where they are unavailable for childcare. It is also available for a maximum of 15 hours for parents who are not working, studying or training.
The maximum subsidy rates are payable to families with reckonable income of €26,000 per year or less. Rates then reduce on a sliding scale as income rises, with subsidies payable for families with a reckonable income of up to €60,000 per year.
Reckonable income is calculated by taking net family income (income after tax, PRSI and USC) and deducting any allowable items under the scheme. These items include multiple child discounts of €4,300 for families with two children under the age of 15 and €8,600 for families with three or more children under 15.
Contributions to pension schemes are also deductible, subject to usual Revenue limits, as are maintenance payments made by you in respect of a child or former spouse.
A variety of social protection payments are also excluded for the purposes calculating reckonable income. These include the Foster Care Allowance, Back to Education Allowance, Back to School Clothing and Footwear Allowance, Guardian’s Payment, Back to Work Enterprise Allowance, Mobility Allowance, Blind Welfare Allowance, Rent Supplement, and the Carer’s Support Grant.
The maximum subsidies payable are €5.10 per hour for a child up to one year old; €4.35 for children between one and three years of age; €3.95 for children over three; and €3.75 for children of school age. The payments taper off as income rises with the minimum subsidy for a child up to one year old being 88 cent per hour. The minimum for a school age child is 33 cent.
Jenny has one child who is two years old and needs 40 hours of childcare per week. She is a lone parent, working fulltime with a gross income of €26,500 per year. Under the Scheme, her reckonable family income is €26,000 and she qualifies for a subsidy of €175 per week or €9,100 per year.
Siobhan and Jack have two children; a two-year-old who needs 40 hours of childcare and a five-year-old who needs 17 hours of afterschool care per week. Siobhan is working fulltime and Jack is studying. They have a gross income of €64,000 per year. Under the Scheme, their reckonable family income is €43,200 and they qualify for a total subsidy of €7308 per year.
Charlie and Sam have three children; a one-year-old and two-year-old twins who all need 40 hours of childcare per week. Charlie works full time, while Sam works part time. They have a gross income of €90,000 per year. Under the Scheme, their reckonable family income is €51,400 and they qualify for a total subsidy of €176 per week or €9,152 per year.
[More information on the National Childcare Scheme is available at ncs.gov.ie. You can also call the Parent Support Centre on 01 906 8530 from 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday]
The National Childcare Scheme is designed to be flexible, recognising that childcare needs are different for each family. Parents and providers will continue to work together as they do at the moment, agreeing the amount of care based on a combination of what a parent needs and what a provider can reasonably offer.
Providers will continue to set their own fees, sessions and decide their own admissions policies. The subsidy can then be applied to the hours of care agreed, subject to the maximum amount available to the family under the scheme. Providers will simply subtract the subsidy from their fee, thereby lowering childcare costs.
The payment mechanism is very straightforward. Once an application has been approved, the family receives a unique code called a Chick (Childcare Identifier Code Key). The Chick, along with the child’s name and date of birth, are all the provider needs to register your child on the National Childcare Scheme. The Department of Children and Youth Affairs will pay the subsidy to the provider on the family’s behalf as soon as the childcare hours have been agreed and confirmed by the family.
The ECCE programme will not be affected by the National Childcare Scheme and will continue to operate. All other existing childcare programmes will operate until the launch of the National Childcare Scheme on November 20th. The programmes will then close to new applications, but families can choose to remain on their current programme for the coming year if they prefer.
To apply for the scheme online, applicants will need to have a verified MyGovID account, the single account that gives safe, secure, online access to a range of Irish Government services. They will also need to supply each child’s date of birth and PPSN and their own employment and income details. Couples must provide both partners’ PPSNs.
More information on the National Childcare Scheme is available at ncs.gov.ie. You can also call the Parent Support Centre on 01 906 8530 from 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday.