By Journal.ie via Little Harvard
Minister for Children, Katherine Zappone, has today announced the creation of over 5,000 new childcare places after securing increased funding for the scheme.
The government said hundreds of childcare centres will benefit from the grants aimed at increasing capacity for children of school-going age.
A national awareness campaign has been set up to raise parents’ awareness of the scheme, which has benefitted from €19 million in extra supports.
Zappone said these extra places are part of the “first big step to accessible, affordable childcare” in Ireland, and said she would engage with government colleagues over the next few weeks in an attempt to gain more funding for these projects in the next Budget.
The number of children joining existing government care schemes is six times higher than this time last year, with 3,000 signing up this July compared to 500 in 2016.
Zappone said, “The next focus of our awareness campaign is a call to action telling parents that there are just four weeks to go before extra supports start.
“Support will be provided in two ways. A universal support for all children aged six months to three years. That subsidy will be up to €1,040 per year – effectively six weeks of free childcare.”
She then added that targeted subsidies for lower-income families would also increase.
“This is a good start,” the minister said, “but much more must be done to turn our childcare system from being one of the most expensive in the world into the best.
“We need more funding like this to ensure quality and capacity.”
At the launch of the campaign, the Taoiseach said he was very pleased to honour the government’s commitment to making childcare more affordable for families.
Lower income families
“For the first time, a universal, non-means tested childcare subsidy will be available for children aged six months to three years. This amounts to a maximum of €1,040 per year, for some the cost of one month of childcare. We will also be providing extra support for parents on lower incomes going back to work or education, providing as much as €145 per week towards the cost of their childcare,” he said, adding:
“In a Republic of opportunity everyone should have the chance to access employment and education. Childcare can often be a barrier to this, whereas it should be a bridge to opportunity for parents, their children and our economy.”
“These new subsidies will create greater parental choice and financial support for families so they can achieve their full potential. I’m delighted that investment made this year will help families begin to feel a difference in their pockets from September.”
Middle income earners
Varadkar said he anticipates increased investment in childcare, indicating that extra resources could be dedicated in the next Budget, not only to families with lower incomes, but middle-income earners too.
“Subject to the economy continuing to grow and public finances being in order, I would anticipate that in the years to come we will increase the subsidy and widen the number of people that can benefit from the subsidy,” he said.
Zappone said that budget negotiations are ongoing, but argued that she would be fighting for extra resources for her department.
“I have no intention of going down on the pecking order, just to let you know that,” she jokingly told reporters today.
The Taoiseach said providing subsidies for lower-income families is important as it will allow families to “grow their incomes in the years ahead”.
“I want people to have higher incomes. I want them to move up in terms of living standards and income and that is why the targeted measures in this are very important,” said Varadkar, adding that families will be able to “move from being in lower-income to middle-income in the future”.
For more information or to see if you are eligible for the subsidies you can visit the website www.affordablechildcare.ie.