7,500 to benefit from childcare subsidies in government new scheme

An Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar T.D and Katherine Zappone, Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Independent TD at the launch of the National Childcare Scheme. Picture: Maxwell’s

Around 7,500 extra children will qualify for childcare subsidies under a new national scheme.

The scheme, which will not open until October, has increased the top net income threshold to €60,000 meaning more parents will be able to avail of the assistance.

At its launch, Children's Minister Katherine Zappone said: "It will provide the easiest way for parents and families to receive the supports that the government has to make childcare more affordable, higher quality, and accessible."

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said reducing the cost of childcare would enable more parents to enter the workforce or to engage in further education. He said the scheme would combine universal and targeted subsidies.

The way this national childcare scheme works is really good. Working families on low incomes get the biggest subsidies but middle-class families who pay a lot of taxes get a big subsidy as well. This will extend child income subsidies to families with a gross income of €100,000," said Mr Varadkar.

Over 40,000 other children, who are already eligible, will see increases to their subsidies.

A once-off Transition Support Payment was also announced, which will be paid to childcare providers who participate in the scheme.

The Taoiseach was asked whether the Government would consider giving parents the option of splitting maternity and parental leave. However, he said the direction of policy is that there should always be a dedicated maternity benefit.

"Women give birth to children and that does create a difference. There is a need to get through a pregnancy and recover from it so I think there will always need to be a dedicated maternity leave," he said.

It comes after a Fianna Fáil Bill providing parents with a choice in splitting the 26-week entitlement was shot down by the Government.

Mr Varadkar pointed to the paternity leave benefit which has been availed of by 50,000 fathers.

"The next step now is parental leave and that will go to both parents. And I think that's the best model going forward."

But Ms Zappone said the issue of splitting leave would continue to be discussed by Government.

"The commitment is, especially in the first year, as much as possible a parent can remain in the home with a child. I completely understand that ultimately we should provide a policy where the partners can make a choice as to what is best for them and their child. “

Mr Varadkar added that "choice is important" but said he "wouldn’t like to go down the road of making it compulsory".

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