The government has launched a new funding model for Irish childcare services
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This could help ease the pressure some parents are feeling at the moment.
Great news for parents of preschool and school children as Minister for Children, Roderic O’Gorman, has recently launched the new funding model for Early Learning and Childcare, Together for Better.
The new Together for Better model includes the National Childcare Scheme (NCS), which offers two different subsidies to support parents with the costs of early learning and childcare. It also includes two other funding schemes to form an interlocking and integrated system of funding designed to improve affordability, accessibility, quality, sustainability, and pay and conditions in the Early Learning and Childcare sector. To date, 94% of providers around the country have signed up to be Partner Services, working together with the State for better early learning and childcare.
Together for Better brings together three major schemes, as follows:
The National Childcare Scheme (NCS), which provides two types of subsidy to offset against fees: Universal subsidies and Income Assessed Subsidies. Universal Subsidies are available to all families with children between 24 weeks and 15 years of age, and is not means-tested. Income Assessed Subsidies are available to families with children aged between 24 weeks and 15 years. This subsidy is means-tested and will be calculated based on the applicants' individual circumstances. You can find a full list of NCS subsidies and changes that will come into effect from 2 January right HERE.
- The Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) programme, which began in 2010, provides for free universal pre-school for children for 15 hours per week, 38 weeks per year, for the two years before they begin primary school. This includes supports under the Access and Inclusion Model (AIM), designed to ensure that children with disabilities can access and reap the benefits of the ECCE programme.
- Core Funding is a new funding Scheme that starts the partnership for the public good between the State and providers. Core Funding is funding directly to providers, based on their operating hours, number and age of child places offered. The aim of Core Funding is to allow providers’ costs to increase to improve quality, including the pay and conditions of staff, but to ensure these costs are not passed onto parents in fee increases and that services are not made unsustainable.
A central condition of Together for Better is that there is no increase to parental fees above those that were charged in September 2021, effectively a fee freeze at 2021 rates. In practice, because most providers did not increase fees during Covid-19, this is an effective fee freeze since 2020 levels for most services. This will give parents greater certainty about what they will be charged and ensure that the full affordability benefits of increases to NCS subsidies are felt by parents and not absorbed by fee increases.
At present only Tusla-registered childminders are able to offer the National Childcare Scheme. Currently, the legislation prevents most childminders from registering with Tusla. Work is underway through the National Action Plan for Childminding, to extend regulation to all paid non-relative childminders, which will open the National Childcare Scheme to a much wider cohort of childminders.
Together for Better Partner Services must offer the NCS and/or ECCE to all eligible parents to ensure that parents can avail of their full entitlement to subsidised early learning and childcare provision. Parents in participating services will receive a Parent Statement, explaining the Partner Services commitments under Together for Better in relation to fees and, the ECCE programme and NCS.
Together for Better supports improved quality of services by better enabling providers to attract and retain qualified staff; pay the new rates of pay introduced under the recent Employment Regulation Order; establish career structures; introduce or improve other features of high-quality provisions, such as non-contact time, planning, training, and curriculum implementation.
Together for Better is already having an impact with more than 4,000 Partner Services who have increased financial stability, 25,000 staff in the sector receiving pay increases, 200,000 children and their families who stand to benefit from greater affordability and better quality of services.
If you are already receiving a subsidy through the National Childcare Scheme then you will not need to make any change in order to benefit from the new uplift in subsidy which will apply automatically from 2nd January 2023. If your provider is registered with Together for Better and you are not receiving the National Childcare Scheme and want to find out more, you can go to www.ncs.gov.ie or call the NCS Parent Support Centre Monday to Friday 9am-5 pm on 01 9068530.
Parents can also contact their local City/County Childcare Committee if they have any questions about Together for Better: https://myccc.ie/where-is-my-nearest-ccc
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