Saturday 7 December 2019

Zappone in push for disabled access to childcare

Pledge: Katherine Zappone. Photo: Tom Burke
Pledge: Katherine Zappone. Photo: Tom Burke

Niall O'Connor

Children's Minister Katherine Zappone is seeking Government approval to expand the new affordable childcare scheme to include hundreds of families with disabled children.

At present, children with disabilities receive State support through a separate initiative known as the Access Inclusion Model (AIM).

This scheme has supported over 1,000 children with disabilities to attend free pre-school since its launch last June.

However, Ms Zappone wants to amalgamate this with the new, affordable childcare scheme, which was a central plank of October's Budget.

In order to do so, she will propose a new bill that will give the amalgamations a legal standing.

The scheme, which has been underpinned by €466m worth of funding, will go live in September.

It will see all families earning more than €47,500 getting a payment of 50c an hour on their childcare costs for children under three.

Families earning below that threshold will be able to avail of subsidies for childcare for children up to 15 years, on a sliding scale depending on their income and the age of the child.

The move to bring disabled children and their families under the scheme will be communicated to ministers through a Cabinet memo later this month.

It's understood the memo will also seek to address the concerns of childcare providers who have raised the burden of bureaucracy and red-tape as a potential problem for the sector.

Last night, Ms Zappone said the amalgamation is important and will ensure children with disabilities avail of the best possible childcare services.

"Improving access to childcare for everyone is at the very centre of our approach - that includes children with disabilities, families impacted by poverty and those who up until now faced barriers in trying to avail of service," she said.

"We will turn our childcare system from one of the most expensive in the world into one of the best - and that means it must be accessible to everyone."

Irish Independent

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