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Early Childhood Care and Education ( ECCE) Scheme questions and answers

When does the scheme start?

- The scheme started in early January 2010.

What are the age limits for the children?

- Children qualify in the year that they are aged three years and three months to four years and six months at 1 September. Interpreting this as generously as possible, this means that children born between 2 February 2005 and 30 June 2006 qualify in January 2010 and children born between 2 February 2006 and 30 June 2007 will qualify in September 2010. ( The upper age range is extended where children are developmentally delayed or where necessary to accommodate a school's admissions policy.)

Are creches/ childminders involved in the scheme, or is it only playschools/ pre-schools?

- The scheme is open to both daycare and play school services.

Do all pre-schools automatically offer this?

- The majority of pre-school services provide programme-based activities for preschool children. Approximately 80pc of services have entered the scheme, which requires them to have qualifi ed pre-school leaders and to adhere to the principles of Síolta, the National Quality Framework for Early Learning.

Can my local pre-school refuse to offer this scheme?

- Pre-school services are privately operated and it is open to them to enter the scheme

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How do parents apply for the scheme?

- Parents should contact their local pre-school service to enrol their child. The 33 city and county childcare committees can assist parents with further information in regard to local services.

Is it means tested?

- No, the ECCE scheme is universal and children qualify when they are within the eligible ag e range.

How does the scheme work – does the money go to parents or the pre-school?

- Participating services are paid a capitation fee for each qualifying child enrolled in their service for the pre-school year in return for providing a free pre-school year place.

What does it mean for parents in terms of financial savings?

- Parents using the play school model will be able to avail of a free pre-school year place for their children, generally for three hours per day, five days per week over the course of the primary school year. The service will, normally, be paid  2,450 per annum or  64.50 per week per place. Parents using the daycare model will avail of a free pre-school year place for their children, generally provided for two hours 15 minutes per day, five days a week over the course of the year. The service will receive  2,425 per annum or  48.50 per week per place and the parents' daycare fees will reduce by this amount.

How many hours per week/ weeks per year are offered by the scheme?

- Fifteen hours per week over 38 weeks in the play school model and 11 hours 15 minutes over 50 weeks in the daycare model.

If the child stays in pre-school for longer than the allotted hours, do parents have to pay extra for the remaining time?

- Services are free to charge parents for additional services such as additional hours over and above the free pre-school year provision.

How many children do the Government expect to be catered for under the scheme?

- In January 2010, initial figures indicate that 51,000 children – that is 80pc of children in the year before school – will avail of the scheme.

Answers provided by the Office of the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs

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