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Thursday 14 December 2017

Childcare providers in rural areas fastest to sign up to new subsidy scheme

Childrens' Minister Katherine Zappone. Photo: Tom Burke
Childrens' Minister Katherine Zappone. Photo: Tom Burke
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

Childcare providers in rural areas are signing up for the Government's new subsidy scheme at a considerably faster rate than in urban centres.

From September the Department of Children will begin paying a universal childcare support worth to up €1,040 per year for children aged between six months and three years.

Of the 4,500 childcare services in the country, more than half have begun the process of engaging with the scheme.

Sign-up is highest in Roscommon, Donegal, Sligo, Kerry, Galway, Carlow and Leitrim, where an average of 75pc of providers have engaged. In Dublin, Cork and Limerick, the figures are as much as 10pc lower.

It comes as Children's Minister Katherine Zappone prepares to release figures showing the number of children supported by targeted childcare schemes aimed at the less well-off has reached unprecedented levels.

The jump is being attributed to a national information campaign ahead of childcare changes starting in September. An extra 2,500 children are now getting support - bringing these numbers up to more than 30,000.

"The first big step to accessible, affordable, quality childcare is now being taken. These initial figures are hugely encouraging.

"The increase in children assessing targeted supports over the past month alone, when compared to the same period last year, shows that children are now accessing benefits which their families previously did not know about. So already the impact is being felt," Ms Zappone said.

Around 70,000 families will begin receiving a universal payment from September, but the full roll out of the Affordable Childcare Scheme has been hit by IT problems. It also allows for targeted payments for low-income families.

Ms Zappone told an Oireachtas committee it was "too early to give a definitive answer" on when the tendering and implementation process for the childcare system would be finished.

Irish Independent

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