A NEW after-school childcare scheme will provide subsidised child places in seven locations nationwide.
The scheme is the first dedicated after-school initiative and will provide 6,000 places to help low-income parents get over the hurdle of juggling work and family life.
Parents will pay €20 per week for after-school care, and the same payment will apply during school holidays and mid-terms when the children require full-time care.
The Government will pay a subsidy of €35 per week to childcare providers, increasing to €100 per week during school holidays.
A pilot initiative will begin next week offering 500 places. The full €14m scheme will be rolled out later in the year.
The scheme will be made available through Department of Social Protection offices in Finglas, Dundalk, Tralee, Dublin, Cork, Mullingar and Limerick with participants referred to local childcare providers.
While after-school care has been available through existing schemes such as the Community Childcare Subvention, this is the first standalone system specifically aimed at assisting low-income families.
The Department of Social Protection will assess its customers to check if they are eligible and they will have to provide evidence of employment. It will also be available to long-term unemployment claimants and lone parents who have got a job offer or a significant increase in part-time hours.
Parents working part-time will get a pro-rata amount of subsidised after-school care.
The Department of Children will oversee standards in the after-school facilities used.
After-school childcare, which includes full-time care during holiday periods, can cost as much as €700 per child per month.
Early Childhood Ireland, which represents childcare facilities, said they were pleased the subsidies had increased from those initially proposed which caused uproar among their members.
However, the scheme still undervalued the complex requirements of children, though it could be improved on in the pilot phase, said chief executive Irene Gunning.
Social Protection Minister Joan Burton said: "The provision of good quality, affordable childcare is one of the most important ways in which we can help people get back to work.
"This scheme will assist parents on low incomes to return to work, and when fully up and running will make a crucial difference to thousands of families," she said.
A Department of Social Protection spokeswoman confirmed an earnings threshold does not apply to the scheme.
Children's Minister Francis Fitzgerald said that the pilot phase of the scheme being run jointly with her department would allow them to tweak it while minimising red tape.
One Family, which represents lone-parent families, welcomed the scheme but called for it to be carefully tailored to their needs.