Monday 21 October 2019

Katherine Zappone admits she did not seek hike in universal childcare supports

Children’s Minister Katherine Zappone. Photo: Gareth Chaney/Collins
Children’s Minister Katherine Zappone. Photo: Gareth Chaney/Collins
Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

MINISTER Katherine Zappone has admitted said she didn’t seek a Budget increase to the universal childcare subsidy rate saying she prioritised extra support for lower and middle income families with older children.

There was no hike in the €20-per-week universal subsidy for families with children under three-years-old, despite rising crèche fees in recent years.

Ms Zappone confirmed that she did not ask Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe for an increase to this rate.

Instead she got funding for expanding the hours and thresholds for the means-tested subsidies which offer support for parents with children up to 15-years old.

Ms Zappone said: “The Budget means you make choices and I did make a choice not to increase the universal subsidy.”

She said the primary reason is that the universal subsidy is for families with children under three whereas the targeted subsidies to support families with children up to 15-years of age.

She said the Budget was an opportunity to invest in helping “a wider range of children”.

Ms Zappone also secured funding in the Budget to allow for the maximum hours for the new National Childcare Scheme (NCS) to increase from 40-hours-per week to 45 from September 2020.

This is aimed at benefiting parents of school age children who need before school and after school childcare to include time for commuting to and from work.

Ms Zappone also said that an increase in the threshold for the means-tested support to gross income of around €100,000 will kick in this year and see the families of an extra 7,000 children will either get subsidies for the first time or receive increased subsidies.

She said Department of Children has secured €94m in extra funding in the Budget bring the total allocation to €1.6bn in 2020.

This includes €54.5m in additional funding going towards childcare – a 9.3pc increase on 2019.

The additional funding is targeted at those on the lowest incomes, lone parents and children with additional needs.

Ms Zappone said: “Negotiations can be tough and Budget negotiations are in a league of their own. I don’t think I have any bruises though.”

She added: “I’m so pleased that children and young people and their families have remained to the fore in the government’s priorities.”

Additional funding for the Access and Inclusion Model (AIM) scheme is to help the families of an additional 1,000 children with disabilities to access targeted pre-school supports.

Tusla, the Child and Family Agency, is to get an increase of €31m bringing it’s total allocation to €814m next year.

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