What is the Early Childhood Care And Education Scheme (ECCE) and how do I claim?
If you work and need someone to look after your child while you work, then most of us accept that we have to cough up a huge amount of cash for childcare.
And clearly that are vast improvements that could be made to help support working mums and dads.
However, with the introduction of the Early Childhood Care And Education Scheme (ECCE) in 2010, parents started to get something back at least.
Here's an ECCE summary:
1) What is it?
The ECCE scheme provides early childhood care and education for children of pre-school age. Children are eligible for the ECCE scheme if they are aged over three years and not older than five-and-a-half years.
From September, children will be able to access the scheme from the age of two-years-and-eight-months.
There are no exemptions to the lower age limit, however, if your child is over upper age limit but has special needs then they may be able to get an exemption.
2) What do you get?
Participating creches, day-care centres, and nurseries offer a set number of hours over a set period of weeks. The exact pattern of free hours depends on the type of service that your child attends, but generally it works out at three hours a day, five days a week for the duration of the school year (38 weeks out of 52).
The creche might, for example, operate two slots daily: 9am-12pm, and 2pm-5pm.
If you need full-time care, you of course pay an additional top-up - but those three hours a day are free regardless, which works out at a saving of about €200 a month.
3) When can my child join?
Children were previously able to enroll in pre-school at three different points: September, January, and April. From this year, however, this is being reduced to a single entry point in September.
4) What does my child get?
Childcare services taking part in the ECCE scheme must provide an appropriate pre-school educational programme which adheres to the principles of Síolta, the national framework for early years education.
5) How you can apply:
To get a place for your child, you can apply directly to any playschool or creche. A list of participating services from your local City or County Childcare Committee - the details of which are here.
You will need to provide a copy of your child's birth certificate or passport and PPS number.
6) The ECCE table: