Wednesday 7 December 2016

Sinead Ryan: Explaining complex childcare assistance package for parents

Published 12/10/2016 | 02:30

Minister Katherine Zappone. Picture Credit: Frank McGrath
Minister Katherine Zappone. Picture Credit: Frank McGrath

There are two elements to the childcare assistance package.

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The first is the 'universal' payment, although it is anything but universal.

It only applies to children aged six months to three years (when the free childhood education year starts).

The subsidy will be paid to crèches and childminders directly to care for children.

This is instead of paying parents a cash sum directly (as is done with child benefit) and is probably done in this way for two reasons: firstly, to avoid crèche fees increasing and secondly, to favour out-of-home childcare arrangements.

The way it works is that the childcare facility or person must be registered with Tusla, the Child and Family Agency.

This will have the added benefit of bringing more childminders out of the black market; they don't get the subsidy if they aren't registered, insured and garda vetted.

They will submit the number of children in their care to the agency and receive an allowance per head for children falling within the age ranges.

Around 27pc of children are cared for in crèches, with a further 31pc being looked after by childminders.

However, the majority of children, at 42pc, are cared for by family members, like grandparents, aunts or neighbours and friends. And so unless they are registered with the Childcare Committee of their local authority, they won't benefit from the subsidy on offer.

Neither will the thousands of mums and dads who mind their own children at home, and who may have given up work to do so.

How to get the benefit:

Make sure your crèche or childminder is registered with Tusla by September 2017.

Your child must be between six months and 36 months old.

The subsidy should not result in a fee increase - challenge your provider if it does. There may be increased pressure on childcare places - make sure you find and register with one as soon as your baby is born.

Childcare subvention scheme:

The second childcare measure is specifically targeted at those on low incomes and, as such, will be means tested.

It will apply to those in receipt of social welfare benefits like lone parents and job seekers or those who have returned to training.

Again, this subsidy will be paid directly to a Tusla-registered childcare provider, but the age limits here are more generous: from six months to 15 years.

This means it allows children who are in after-school care to also benefit from the subsidy if they are being cared for in a facility.

How to get the benefit:

Be in receipt of social welfare payments such as single-parent family payment, jobseeker's allowance or back-to-education allowance.

Your child must be under 15 and be in Tusla-registered childcare.

Complete the means testing forms which will assess household income to see if you qualify.

If successful, a subsidy will be paid directly to your childcare provider.

Other measures:

The medical card is being given to all children in receipt of the Domiciliary Care Allowance.

A registered childminder looking after up to three children in their own home can earn up to €15,000 per annum tax free.

Irish Independent

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