Applications for the new National Childcare Scheme (NCS) officially opened on 20th November, 2019 replacing previous childcare support programmes.
What is the National Childcare Scheme (NCS)?
The National Childcare Scheme is replacing all previous targeted childcare programmes with a single, streamlined and user-friendly scheme to help parents meet the cost of quality childcare.
On 11th March 2019, the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Dr Katherine Zappone TD, announced the launch of the National Child Care Scheme, a pathway to quality, accessible, affordable Early Learning and Care and School-Age Child Care in Ireland.
Announcing the Scheme, Minister Zappone noted:
"The National Childcare Scheme is a landmark new Scheme for Ireland. It is the first ever statutory entitlement to financial support for childcare. Through this entitlement, the National Childcare Scheme aims to improve children's outcomes, support lifelong learning, reduce child poverty and tangibly reduce the cost of quality childcare for thousands of families across Ireland.” (Gov.ie Press Release; 11 March 2019)
Recognising the central role of childcare providers, the Minister also announced a once-off Transition Support Payment which will be paid to all providers who participate in the Scheme.
The Minister was joined at the launch by An Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar TD. Speaking at the launch, An Taoiseach said:
“We realise that childcare costs are a huge financial burden on families, so we want to make it easier and more affordable to access high quality childcare. The cost of childcare can act as a barrier to parents to want to return to work, but who are worried about how much it will cost to do so. It can also be obstacle to parents who want to take up education and training." (Gov.ie Press Release; 11 March 2019)
Details of the National Childcare Scheme:-
- Every child between the ages of 6 months and 36 months in Tusla-registered childcare services will be eligible for some level of childcare support.
- This scheme will replace the existing subsidy schemes – including the Community Childcare Subvention Programme(CCS / CCSP ) and the Childcare Education and Training Support Programme (TEC). It will not affect ECCE – (the Early Childhood Care and Education programme)
- It is estimated that 7,500 children will be allocated income-related subsidies for the first time, once parents have completed their applications for the new scheme.
- It has been confirmed that the new National Childcare Scheme will be open for online applications from November 20th 2019.
- The first subsidy payments are due to go to childcare providers from November 25th 2019.
A paper-based application will be available from January 2020.
Who is eligible?
- Parents of children aged from 24 weeks to 15 years who are attending any Tusla-registered childcare service - including a registered childminder - will be entitled to some level of financial support.
- Note: only registered school-age childcare services will be able to provide services under the National Childcare Scheme.
When are subsidies going to be paid?
The first payments - paid directly to the childcare provider - due to be made from 25th November 2019.
What subsidies are available?
Two types: Universal and Income assessed.
Universal subsidy for children under 3 which is not means tested.
An income assessed subsidy for children up to 15 which is means-tested.
Your provider then subtracts your subsidy from your childcare bill.
Universal payments will be available to all families with children under three, and children over three who have not yet qualified for the free pre-school programme (ECCE).
This subsidy is not means-tested and provides 50c per hour towards the cost of a registered childcare place for up to a maximum of 40 hours per week.
It will provide up to €20 a week, or €1,040 per year, towards the cost of a childcare place.
Income assessed subsidy
Income Assessed Subsidies are available to families with children aged between 24 weeks and 15 years. This subsidy is means-tested and will be calculated based on your individual circumstances.
Your rate for the Income Assessed Subsidies will vary depending on your family’s income, your child’s age and educational stage, and the number of children in your family. The subsidy can be used towards the cost of a registered childcare place for up to a maximum of 40 hours if you are working, studying or training, or in certain circumstances where you are unavailable to care for the child.
The Department of Children said this income-assessed subsidy will also be paid out in circumstances where a parent is "unavailable for childcare". It will also be paid for a maximum of 15 hours if a parent is not working, studying or training.
The threshold for applying for Income Assessed subsidies is €60,000 reckonable income per year.
What is meant by “reckonable” income?
Your reckonable income is the total amount of your net family income. This is income from all sources (including most social welfare payments), after tax, PRSI and USC have been deducted.
How many subsidized hours/ what rate of subsidy am I entitled to?
Depends on various factors; family income, age of child and stage of education, and the work and/or training/education status of both parents.
All families with children under three, regardless of income, are entitled to 50 cent off the cost of every hour of childcare used – up to a maximum of 40 hours a week – that is, €20 a week.
Families with a “reckonable” income of under €60,000 will be entitled to a means-tested, sliding scale of subsidy, with the maximum rates payable for those with a reckonable income of under €26,000.
The maximum subsidy will be payable to all those with net incomes below €2600 per annum. (Net Income of €500 per week).
Childcare subsidy Payments will be made directly to childcare providers, not parents.
The calculation of the childcare subsidy is based on the net income of the household, the number of children and the ages of the children.
As net family income rises above €26,600 – the subsidy will decrease. A family with one child under 15 and net annual income over €60,000 a year will not qualify for the means-tested subsidy.
Some Examples of how the National Childcare Scheme will work
a) Lone parent, with a net annual income of €26,000 , with one child aged 2 years in need of 40 hours of childcare per week. Will get €175 per week subsidy. (€9,100 a year)
b). Family with gross income of €64,000 and a net annual income of €43,200 , with two children: One aged 5 who needs 17 hours of after school care a week and a 2-year-old needing 40 hours of childcare per week. They will get €128 per week subsidy. (€6656 a year)
c) Family with net annual income of €51,400 (Gross of €90,000) with three children aged 2,2 and 1. (40 hours childcare each per week). They will get €176 per week subsidy. (€9152 a year)
How do I apply?
- Parents, not their childcare providers, will be the ones who must apply for childcare fee subsidies.
- Your childcare provider must be registered with Tusla and also have signed a National Childcare Scheme contract. Parents are now able to access a full list of Tusla-registered childcare providers who have signed a NCS contract. Your local City or County Childcare Committee should also have that information.
- Online applications by parents for childcare subsidies for children aged between 24 weeks and 15 years opened on ncs.gov.ie from Wednesday, November 20th 2019.
- Only families where at least one parent already has a Public Services Card (PSC) will be able to proceed with the online application.
- A verified myGov.ie account is needed to make an online NCS application and you can’t have a verified account until you have a Public Services Card (PSC).
- MyGovID is a secure online identity verification service that the Department of Social Protection (DEASP) carries out on behalf of bodies providing public services online. In order to use this service, you must first register with MyGovID.
- A subsidy calculator will be available for parents making an online application to work out what their entitlement
- A PSC is not required for paper-based applications by post, but at the time of writing these will not be accepted until after January 1st, 2020.
- With paper-based applications by post, subsidies will not be backdated.
How is my subsidy paid?
- When your online application is approved, you will receive a Chick code that your childcare provider needs to register the number of hours you are going to use. You will then receive an online notification asking you to confirm the details and, once this has been done, the department will send the subsidy to the provider, who will reduce your bill accordingly.
- The money will still go to the provider, who will discount parents’ fees according to the hourly subsidy granted.
- Subsidies will only be paid for childcare costs at a centre (or child minder), which is both registered with Tusla and has a National Childcare Scheme contract.
Will my NCS subsidy be affected by ECCE – (the Early Childhood Care and Education programme)?
The two-year free preschool programme (ECCE – the Early Childhood Care and Education programme) will not be affected by the new scheme.
Does the amount of subsidised hours include time in school?
Yes, the hours of childcare you’re entitled to includes time spent at pre-school or school. That’s where “wrap around” comes in.
What is meant by ‘wrap-around care’ for families?
The NCS offers wrap-around care for families, to help with the cost of childcare for the hours that children spend outside school or pre-school. This means your subsidy can be used for childcare costs for hours outside of school or pre-school, including: Childcare used before school or pre-school starts.
So, for example, a parent of a child in first to sixth class in national school, deemed to qualify for 40 subsidised hours a week, will receive discounts off 12 hours of out-of-school care a week during term time – but 40 discounted hours a week during school holidays.
National Childcare Scheme 2019
For further info:
- Parent Support Centre is now open - Phone (01) 906 8530 - Monday to Friday 9.00am to 5.00pm
- ncs.gov.ie for a guide and extensive list of Parents’ FAQs.
- Local and County Childcare Committees are also all available to provide support and advice. See myccc.ie
About the Author
Maeve Nolan has worked in Portobello for almost twenty years with experience in managing her own Montessori school for fifteen years. She completed her BA in Montessori Education and in European Studies with a MA in International Politics. Through her experience in working in Germany as an expert in Research and Policy Analysis on Education and Training, Maeve has become skilled in time management and in prioritisation, key skills that have aided her career as a tutor. In 2019 Maeve became the Early Years development advisor for Portobello Institute while she continues to tutor on the level 7 Early Years degree.