Katherine Zappone announces €4m for childcare services

Minister for Children Katherine Zappone has announced €4 million to create more childcare places, upgrade existing childcare buildings and develop natural outdoor play areas at pre-schools.

Ms Zappone said she is “progressing” legislation to underpin her new subsidised childcare schemes which will be available to parents from the autumn.

Up to €50,000 is available to individual childcare centres towards construction projects that will enable them to take in more children. Another €20,000 is to be made available for upgrading at existing premises while capital grants of up to €5,000 are to be made available to smaller childcare operations to create natural outdoor play areas that “promote physical development, provide health benefits and facilitate children to learn about risk and challenges in a natural and safe environment”.

Early Childhood Ireland CEO Theresa Heeney welcomed the “capital injection” but said she would have liked to see the department’s planned childcare blueprint first.

“In some ways it is the cart before the horse because we don’t know which areas of the country have the greatest demographic need for childcare,” she said.

Ms Zappone said: “As this money is being made available I am also progressing the legislation which will underpin the radical new approach to subsidising childcare outlined as part of Budget 2017.

“In the coming months we will continue progressing our plans with a view to ensuring that families will start benefiting in the autumn.”

Under the Single Affordable Childcare Scheme, parents will qualify for a targeted subsidy based on their net income. Subsidies will be available for children aged from six months to 15 years in households earning up to €47,500 net income. The lowest earners will receive the most help and could be eligible for around €8,000 based on the maximum of 40 hours’ childcare a week.

As well as the means-tested subsidy, there will also be a universal element to the scheme for children aged between six months and three years.

From September, a universal subsidy of up to €80 per month will be provided towards childcare costs in registered services for working parents. It will be paid directly to a childcare provider who must be registered with Tusla.

The Department of Children and Youth Affairs had predicted an extra 23,000 children entering the childcare system under the targeted support scheme and another 25,000 extra when the universal support is introduced.

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