Sunday 22 April 2018

IT delay means 9,000 families will miss out on €48 a month childcare subsidy

Katherine Zappone launches the plan with the help of nine-year-old Kate Lucy, from Templeogue. Photo: Maxwells
Katherine Zappone launches the plan with the help of nine-year-old Kate Lucy, from Templeogue. Photo: Maxwells
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

Thousands of working families are to miss out on a promised childcare subsidy of up to €48 a month because they are "unknown" to the social welfare system.

Delays in the development of a new computer system and the fact Revenue is not in a position to share income data on working parents with the Government means the much-heralded Affordable Children Scheme (ACS) cannot be fully rolled out.

As a result, around 9,000 families will lose out because they are not dependant on some form of social welfare.

Children's Minister Katherine Zappone is unable to say when the problems will be resolved but it will be next year at the earliest.

From September, a new universal childcare subsidy will kick in for 33,000 children aged between six months and three years. For children in full-time, registered childcare, it will amount to €1,000 a year.

A second element of the €19m scheme will see 70,000 families with children up to 15 years old and a net income of less than €47,500 get a means-tested subsidy from the State.

These payments will be tapered depending on the age of the child, number of hours in childcare and income of the parents.

However, it has emerged that another 9,000 families who would have expected to have State support on the back of last October's budget announcement will not now benefit.

"We are not quite there yet because we were not able to complete the building of one of the most complex IT systems going," Ms Zappone said.

"There will be some be children, though it's not a very big number, that will not be able to receive the size of subsidy that we had hoped."

She said Ireland was "moving from one of the most expensive childcare systems in the world to the best".­

Asked whether families who miss out now might receive back payments once the system is working, the minister replied: "We're going to explore how we can get the money to them as soon as possible and that will be a question as part of that."

Social Protection Minister Leo Varadkar admitted the parents affected were likely to be working, rather than already reliant on social welfare.

"It's certainly not as we intended it when the announcement was made some months ago," he said.

The families who will benefit from the additional subsidy will already be in receipt of social welfare payments or in possession of a Medical Card or GP Visit Card.

A spokesperson for the Department of Social Protection said it was "well positioned" to share its data with the Department of Children once the scheme was finalised.

Fianna Fáil's children's spokeswoman Anne Rabbitte has accused Ms Zappone of "rushing" the scheme in an effort to score political points.

She said the delays would be "a serious blow to middle income households". "This is an extremely frustrating and worrying development."

Irish Independent

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