Sunday 18 March 2018

Help for parents as Government announces more childcare places

Children’s Minister Katherine Zappone. Photo: Collins
Children’s Minister Katherine Zappone. Photo: Collins
Niall O'Connor

Niall O'Connor

Senior Government figures will today move to assure families of their commitment to reduce childcare costs through the announcement of 5,000 extra places for children.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Children's Minister Katherine Zappone will also insist that further childcare incentives will be rolled out in Budget 2018.

Today's announcement will pledge to provide €19m in supports to childcare providers in order to create 5,000 extra places for children of a school-going age.

A new billboard and radio campaign advising parents to avail of the additional services will also be launched.

"We are now taking the first big step to accessible, affordable, quality childcare. The next focus of our awareness campaign is a call to action telling parents there is just four weeks to go before extra supports start," Ms Zappone said last night.

"Support will be provided in two ways. A universal support for all children aged six months to three years. That subsidy will be up to €1,040 per year - effectively six weeks of free childcare.

"We are also going to support those families who need it most. Targeted childcare subsidies for lower-income families are increasing, some by as much as 50pc, offering up to €145 per week or €7,500 per year.

"This is a good start, but much more must be done to turn our childcare system from being one of the most expensive in the world into the best."

However, Ms Zappone is expected to face questions on the childcare scheme, which has been dogged by delays.

The Single Affordable Childcare Scheme was announced in Budget 2017, and is due to come on stream in September.

It replaces previous subsidy schemes for working parents - such as the After School Childcare Scheme.

Under the plan, parents would be able to avail of subsidies from September of up to €1,000 a year.

But appearing at an Oireachtas committee last month, Ms Zappone outlined several difficulties that have been encountered.

The Independent minister confirmed that the September target will not be met.

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