Tuesday 24 April 2018

Shock for parents as new childcare scheme facing delays of months

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

Niall O'Connor

Plans to subsidise childcare fees for tens of thousands of families through a new scheme from September have been thrown into jeopardy, the Irish Independent can reveal

Children's Minister Katherine Zappone will shock parents today when she reveals that the Government's multi-million euro 'affordable childcare scheme' has experienced complications and is being postponed.

The scheme which was due to come into effect on September 1 now faces delays of months.

Ms Zappone will also reveal that the Department of Social Protection has been drafted in to help iron out several snags.

The Department of Social Protection is currently carrying out an analysis of potential disincentive effects created by the interaction of ACS and Family Income Supplement (FIS).

It will advise Zappone and her department on its findings.

The minister will also reveal concerns expressed by childminders and other childcare providers.

"Planning for the launch of the Affordable Childcare Scheme (ACS) is under way and initial indications suggest that a period of 12-16 weeks will be required for the application period before registrations can begin (and subsidies provided)," she will tell TDs and senators.

The scheme will not take registrations for up to four months and will only process applications on a "rolling basis".

"With the above factors in mind, the Project Board has advised me that they are not in a position, at this point in time, to guarantee a timeline for delivery of the ACS," she will add.

The new Single Affordable Childcare Scheme was announced in Budget 2017.

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 per year.

In her statement to the Children's committee, Ms Zappone will outline several difficulties encountered.

Last week, one of the main bodies representing childcare providers admitted that many of its members would not co-operate with the scheme.

The minister's statement, seen by the Irish Independent, illustrates difficulties encountered with childcare providers.

Ms Zappone states that she wants applications "processed equitably before parents can begin to register their children with childcare providers."

But she adds: "While it is hoped a large proportion of applications will go through the automated system, some will require some level of case management due to family circumstances, and quality assurance."

The Dublin South West TD said the team behind the Affordable Childcare Scheme would meet every three weeks.

"The Project Board will continue to meet every three weeks to progress the ACS development as efficiently and effectively as possible," Ms Zappone said.

Irish Independent

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