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60pc of crèches sign up to new affordable childcare scheme

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Almost 60pc of childcare providers have signed up to the Government's affordable childcare scheme a week before it is due to kick in.

The latest figures show that 2,626 of the country's 4,500 providers have registered.

Children Minister Katherine Zappone insisted the numbers that have signed up is "very positive" as many providers have yet to reopen after the summer break.

Registrations by crèches and other childcare providers rose by 70pc in the past week and Department of Children officials believe they will see more sign up over the next week and into September.

The affordable childcare scheme subsidies will be paid from next Friday. A universal subsidy of up to €80 a month for children aged between six months and three years aims to help with the childcare costs of around 33,000 children.

Ms Zappone said that there has been almost 400,000 page visits at the dedicated website www.affordablechildcare.ie.

She said the "preliminary figures" for registration of providers "are very encouraging as we take the first big step to changing one of the most expensive childcare systems in the world into the best".

Ms Zappone said Government officials "are working hard to ensure that the changes are being rolled out efficiently".

Earlier this week the Irish Independent reported that Ms Zappone is demanding a significant increase in funding for her Department in the Budget and wants to increase targeted childcare support payments for families with incomes up to €47,000.

It is understood she has asked the Department of Finance for a total budget of €1.6bn next year, up from €1.3bn in 2017. This could put her on a collision course with Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe as the amount sought is equal to the total funds available for new spending and tax cuts next year.

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