Thursday 5 December 2019

Are you eligible for the National Childcare Scheme? Here are the facts you need to know

Being a parent comes with lots of questions. What is the right age to start weaning? How should you handle troublesome toddlers and what’s the best potty training method? But one question that crops up again and again is how will I afford childcare?

Finding out what benefits you are entitled to can sometimes be confusing. This November, the National Childcare Scheme comes into effect across Ireland. If you’re unsure about how the scheme will affect you, don’t worry. Here is everything that you need to know.

What is it?

The National Childcare Scheme is the first ever statutory entitlement to financial support for families towards the cost of childcare.

The landmark new scheme establishes an equitable and progressive system of universal and income-related subsidies for children. It will replace all previous targeted childcare programmes with a single, streamlined scheme.

When does it launch?

The scheme will open to online applications on Wednesday,November 20, with the first subsidy payments going to providers from November 25. 

Who can avail of the National Childcare Scheme?

Subsidies will be available for families with children aged between 24 weeks and 15 years. These subsides can then be used with any participating Tusla registered childcare service. This includes any Tusla registered childminder or school-aged services.

How will it help?

The Department of Children and Youth Affairs hopes the scheme will increase the number of families who can access financial support. Many families will, for the first time, be entitled to subsidies which reduce their childcare costs significantly.

Under the National Childcare scheme, there are two types of subsidies. Universal subsidies will be available to all families with children under three years, or families with children over three years who have not yet qualified for the free preschool (ECCE) programme. This subsidy is not means tested and provides up to €1,040 a year off the cost of a Tusla registered childcare place, regardless of income.

The second kind of subsidy is income assessed. It is available to families with children aged between 24 weeks and 15 years who are using Tusla registered childcare. This subsidy is means tested and will be calculated based on your individual circumstances.

The threshold for applying for an income assessed subsidy is €60,000 reckonable income per year. Reckonable income is calculated by taking net family income and deducting any allowable items under the Scheme.

How can I apply?

From Wednesday, 20November you can apply online here.  In order to apply online, you will need to have a verified MyGovID account.  You can find out more information about getting set up with an account online. Postal applications will be available from the end of January 2020.

Do I need to be working to receive a subsidy?

Your employment status won't affect your application. However, the number of hours of childcare support available to you each week will depend on whether you (and your partner, if you have one) are working, studying or training.

Under the Scheme, ‘work’ includes any part-time hours, casual working arrangements and labour activation schemes such as the Gateway and SOLAS programmes.

How much will I get?

Your subsidy rate will vary depending on your reckonable family income, your child’s age and their educational stage. A subsidy calculator will be available on the website which will help you to estimate how much you may be eligible for before you apply.

Those already on a support programme can decide whether to stick with that for the time being or apply for a National Childcare Scheme subsidy when applications open.

How will I know if my childcare provider is participating in the scheme?

A full list of contracted childcare providers will be available on the National Childcare Scheme website. Information will also be available from your local City or County Childcare Committee.

If you have any further questions you can phone the Parent Support Centre on 01 906 8530, Monday-Friday, 9am-5pm, for more information.

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