This week Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Katherine Zappone has begun the information campaign for more affordable childcare in Ireland, with information packs distributed to 4,200 providers around the country.
Budget 2017 included an additional €19 million in funding for childcare and, from this September, every child between six and 36 months in a childcare service (full-time or part-time, community or private) registered with Tusla will receive some level of financial support, paid directly to the childcare provider. In addition, targeted supports as part of the Community Subvention Scheme (CSS) will be increased by up to 50%.
“I am ambitious for childcare in Ireland. It has to be affordable,” said Minister Zappone. “We have to provide good quality care. We also have to ensure that our workforce in the childcare sector is properly recognised for the important work done on a daily basis for our youngest citizens.
In the meantime, how can you make sure you’re getting the best value for your money?
Make your choice
The first step is to choose what type of care your child requires. There are quite a few options available as regards professional services, including full and sessional (morning or afternoon) daycare facilities, and after-school programmes.
Whether you’re in the market for a new car, house or childcare facility, shopping around is key in order to find the best deal. If you’ve got more than one child, the facility will generally give you a discount on siblings. Make sure their rates suit your work or study patterns, and don’t forget to check their policies for paying for absent days, notice of holidays and notice of departure to ensure your deposit is returned.
Check with your employer as to whether there are any subsidised childcare schemes in place. But beware – this could qualify as benefit-in-kind and therefore eligible for taxation.
Money isn’t the only method of quantifying value – you want to ensure your child is safe and well-looked after. Tusla offers a handy list of tips for parents searching for childcare services, such as proper staffing levels and qualifications, policies in place for child protection, and supportive and engaging curricula.
Parents on lower incomes or who want to return to work or education can avail of support schemes should they meet the necessary requirements. From this September, these will be replaced by the Single Affordable Childcare Scheme, which will be based on the parent’s income and cover children between six months and 15 years.
– Community Childcare Subvention Programme (CCS) – Reduced rate childcare for disadvantaged parents, those in training, education or low paid employment. This is provided by community childcare services. Children’s whose parents are homeless will receive 25 hours of free childcare each week.
– After-School Childcare Scheme (ASCC) – A support that allows unemployed people on low incomes to return to the workforce, the scheme provides subsidised after-school programme places.
– Community Employment Childcare Programme (CEC) – Applicants for the Community Employment (CE) programme can avail of childcare at reduced rates.
– Childcare Education and Training Support Programme (CETS) – In some cases, parents undertaking a vocational course with an Education and Training Board can avail of reduced rates on a full-time, part-time or after-school basis.
– Early Childcare and Education Scheme (ECCE) – Children between 3 and 5-and-a-half years receive free pre-school education for a set number of hours.
For more information see citizensinformation.ie.