1. What is the National Childcare Scheme?

The National Childcare Scheme a new national support scheme to help parents meet the cost of quality Early Learning and Care and School Age Childcare. Set to launch in October 2019, it will replace all previous targeted childcare support programmes with a single, streamlined and user friendly Scheme.

Under the National Childcare Scheme, financial supports are available for families with children aged between 24 weeks and 15 years who are attending any participating Tusla registered childcare service, including any Tusla registered childminder.

2. What supports are available under the National Childcare Scheme?

There are two types of support available under the Scheme: a Universal subsidy and an Income Assessed subsidy.

3. When will applications for the National Childcare Scheme open?

Applications for the National Childcare Scheme are due to open in October 2019, with the first payments flowing from November 2019.

4. How do I apply?

Applications can be made from October 2019 through the online application system, using your verified MyGovID. A paper-based application can also be submitted by post.

Detailed information for families on the application process will be made available in the lead up to the launch of the Scheme.

5. What will happen to the existing childcare support programmes?

To ensure continuity of service for both parents and providers, the existing childcare support programmes will continue to operate until the launch of the National Childcare Scheme, but in a limited way.

Applications for the current programmes can be made until the Scheme goes live (targeted for October 2019) after which applications to these programmes will close. This means that for the 2019/2020 programme year, both the National Childcare Scheme and the existing support programmes will run simultaneously. The Community Childcare Subvention Scheme (CCS) will be merged with the Community Childcare Subvention Scheme Plus (CCSP) for the final programme year and will cease completely in 2020. If you have any questions regarding the existing programmes please visit www.dcya.gov.ie or contact eyqueries@dcya.gov.ie.

To make the transition as smooth as possible, you can choose to make the switch to the National Childcare Scheme immediately or remain on your current programme for the final programme year. If you wish to change at any stage throughout the year, you can remain on your current support programme right up until the point that your provider registers you for the National Childcare Scheme and you confirm this registration. For more information on the registration process please go to Question 10.

6. Does the National Childcare Scheme replace the free preschool programme?

No, the free preschool programme (also known as ECCE- the Early Childhood Care and Education programme) will not be affected by the National Childcare Scheme. Instead, the National Childcare Scheme will offer ‘wrap-around’ care for families, providing financial support towards the cost of care for hours spent outside of preschool or school.

7. What is wrap-around care?

When you receive your subsidy award, the maximum hours for which your subsidy is payable are always inclusive of any hours that your child spends in school or preschool. Your subsidy can then be applied to any of the hours of care spent outside of school or preschool. This is known as wrap-around care.  It includes childcare used before school/ preschool starts in the morning, after-school childcare, and childcare used outside of school/ preschool term times.

8. What happens when my child is not in school or preschool?

The hours for which your subsidy is payable will increase during any non-term time, such as school holidays or mid-term breaks. For example, if your child is in school and you qualify for 40 hours of subsidised childcare per week, your subsidy will be payable for up to 17 hours per week during term time, which can be used for before and after-school childcare. It will then increase and be payable for the maximum 40 hours per week for any non-term time childcare.

9. Can you give me an example of wrap-around care?

Siobhan and Jack have two children; two year old Bobby and 5 year old Nora. Siobhan is working full time and Jack is studying for a Level 8 award on the National Framework of Qualifications.

They have a gross family income of €64,000 per year. Under the Scheme, their reckonable family income is €43,200. This is calculated by taking their gross income and subtracting their tax, PRSI and USC, as well as a €4,300 Multiple Child Discount (as they have two children under 15 in the family).

As they are both working and studying, they qualify for the maximum hours of subsidised childcare per week for both children. For Bobby, this is 40 hours a week. Bobby’s subsidy rate is €2.40 per hour, which amounts to €96 per week for 52 weeks.

Nora’s subsidy rate is €1.85 per hour. For the 36 weeks she spends in school during the year, Nora’s subsidy can be applied for up to 17 hours per week, which is the time she spends in her afterschool club. This amounts to €31.45 per week for 36 weeks. For the 16 weeks of non-term time (her school holidays) Nora’s subsidy can be applied for up to 40 hours of childcare per week, which amounts to €74 for 16 weeks.

Applying Bobby and Nora’s subsidies to the all of the hours they spend in childcare over the year, Siobhan and Jack will receive a total of €7308 off their childcare costs.

10. Which type of subsidy can I apply for?

You can choose which type of subsidy to apply for based on your own family circumstances.

All families with children under three in registered childcare can apply for the Universal subsidy. Families with children who are over three and have not yet qualified for the free preschool programme can also apply. This subsidy is not means tested, and provides up to €20 per week, or €1,040 per year, off the cost of a registered childcare place.

Families with children aged between 24 weeks and 15 years who are attending registered childcare and who have a reckonable income of less than €60,000 can apply for an Income Assessed subsidy. Subsidy rates will be tailored based your individual circumstances, such as your reckonable family income, your child’s age and their educational stage.

More detail can be found here

11. Will I have to be working to receive a subsidy?

No, employment status is not a requirement for participation in Scheme. 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 or studying.

This means that participation in work, study or training will determine the number of hours of subsidy available to you. Parents who are working, studying or training may be entitled to up to 40 hours of subsidised childcare per week. In certain circumstances where a parent is unavailable to care for a child, up to 40 hours of subsided care will also be available.

Parents who are not working, studying or training may still qualify for up to 15 hours of subsidised childcare per week under the Scheme, ‘work’ includes any part-time hours, as well as labour activation schemes such as the Gateway and SOLAS programmes.  All courses with awards on the National Framework of Qualifications (NFQ) are covered under the studying or training requirement.

12. What is reckonable income?

Reckonable income is calculated by taking your net family income and deducting any allowable items under the Scheme, such as the Multiple Child Discount.

In other words it is your family income, including social protection payments, after tax, PRSI, USC, and any allowable items under the Scheme have been deducted. Click here for more detail on deductions and how your reckonable family income will be calculated.

13. What does ‘family income’ mean?

‘Family income’ is used to describe the total income that will be included when you apply for an Income-Assessed subsidy.

If you are a lone parent, only your reckonable income will be calculated and assessed. This includes circumstances where you are a lone parent but living with another adult who is not your partner, such as your parent or relative.

If you have a partner who is living with you (such as a spouse, civil partner or co-habitant) it will be your combined reckonable income. Your partner’s income will be included even if they are not your child’s parent or guardian. Similarly, if your partner is living apart from you temporarily, such as for work or study reasons, their income will still be included.

14. How does an Income-Assessed subsidy work?

If you choose to apply for an income assessed subsidy, your reckonable family income will be calculated and assessed. This, along with your child’s age and educational stage, will then determine your subsidy rate.

15. Can I apply for an Income-Assessed subsidy if I am not working?

Yes. Reckonable income includes income from circumstances where you are not employed, such as certain Social Protection payments you are in receipt of. An example of this is your Jobseekers Allowance if you are currently looking for work. The maximum hours for which your subsidy is payable will be then be determined based on whether you are working or studying (see Question 11).

16. How will my income be assessed?

There are two ways your income can be assessed:

  • You can choose to have your income automatically assessed using information available from the most recent year from the Revenue Commissioners and the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection. If you agree to proceed with this approach, the Scheme’s IT system automatically retrieves the information from Revenue and Social Protection using your Personal Public Service (PPS) number (and your partner’s, if applicable). This is typically the fastest way to have your income assessed and your application processed, and you don’t need to provide any supporting documents when applying*.
  • You can choose to manually provide supporting documents, such as payslips or Social Protection declarations, which show your income and have them reviewed and assessed by an officer of the Scheme Administrator. These are known as ‘income proofs’, and a full list be will be published before applications open in October. These proofs will provide the same information that would otherwise be provided by Revenue and Social Protection via the Scheme’s IT system under the automatic option, and applications which are manually reviewed and assessed will take longer to process.

In both cases, you will also be asked to self-declare some additional information that is not readily available through Revenue or Social Protection. These self-declarations refer to any maintenance paid or received, income that would require you to submit a Revenue Form 12, or any foreign income. Self-declared information may be subject to verification checks by the Scheme Administrator (on a sample basis).

*in a small number of circumstances, you may be required to submit supporting documents after choosing an automatic assessment. This will only occur when there is insufficient income information available from the Scheme’s IT system. A full list of such circumstances will be published before applications open in October.   

17. Which time period is used when assessing income?

In general, your income assessment will be based on your income from the previous tax year. However, you can choose to have your income from the current year assessed if you prefer. You may choose this option if your circumstances have changed from the previous tax year, and you believe that your income from the current year will be significantly less than your income from the previous year. In these cases, you may be required to submit supporting documents as described in Question 16, and your application will then be manually reviewed and assessed by an officer of the Scheme Administrator.

18. What if my circumstances change suddenly?

If you have a sudden change in circumstances, such as losing your job or your income is reduced on an ongoing basis, you can apply for a ‘sudden change’ assessment. To do this, you will need to declare that you have recently lost your job or had your income reduced for reasons outside of your control. This does not apply to people who go onto a shorter working year, term-time working arrangement or similar. Your assessment will then be based on the four weeks prior to your application, and any subsidies awarded under a ‘sudden change’ assessment will be for a 6 month period, after which time you will need to re-apply for a new subsidy.

19. How will I receive my subsidy?

Your subsidy will be paid directly to your chosen participating childcare provider, once they have registered you under the Scheme. When your application has been approved, you will receive your unique CHICK code. Your chosen provider will use this, along with your child’s name and date of birth, to register your subsidised hours of care as arranged with them. The hours of care are agreed based on a combination of what you need and what your provider can offer you.

When your provider has registered the hours, you will receive a notification asking you to confirm that the details entered are correct. Once you send your confirmation, the Department of Children and Youth Affairs will then pay the subsidy to the provider on your behalf.

20. How will the subsidies reduce my childcare costs?

The National Childcare Scheme is designed to be flexible, recognising that childcare needs are different for each family. In creating a single scheme, it was important to recognise these differences and create a system that could respond to them.

For this reason subsidies are awarded as an hourly rate, along with a maximum number of hours for which the rate is payable. The award is then broken up into segments, which show any changes to the subsidy rate and the payable hours over the course of the year, such as a change in your child’s age or educational stage.

Working with your provider, you can agree on the amount of childcare that you need based on your own requirements and what their service can offer. Your hourly subsidy rate can then be applied to the hours that have been agreed between you both. If these hours are the same as the amount of hours available to you under the Scheme, all of the hours of care will be subsidised. If the hours agreed are greater than the amount of hours available to you, the remaining hours of care will be unsubsidised and paid for by you in full.  Providers will simply subtract your subsidy from their published fee, giving you access to lower childcare costs.

21. Can I choose any childcare provider?

The Scheme is open to all childcare providers who are registered with Tusla and who have a National Childcare Scheme contract with the Department of Children and Youth Affairs. This is to ensure that there is a quality assurance system in place for childcare providers participating in the Scheme.

22. 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 website prior to the launch. Information will also be available from your local City/County Childcare Committee.

23. How can I get in touch?

Please email us at NCS@dcya.gov.ie or you can talk to us here in Tipperary Childcare Committee on 062-64200.