THE Government is to scrap the Early Childcare Supplement by the end of the year and the e1,000 annual payment will be halved from May.
The payment, introduced in Budget 2006 to ease childcare costs, consisted of a e1,000 yearly payment for each child up to the age of six. This was reduced in the October 2008 budget to the age of five-and-half.
Now, the Government will pay for one year’s pre-school for all children. Last night a children’s charity working with vulnerable families was delighted their long-fought campaign for the introduction of a free pre-school place for all children has been heeded.
Barnardos has been campaigning for such a scheme for many years because of its well proven benefits for all children, particularly for those living in disadvantaged areas. The one year pre-school programme is expected to benefit about 70,000 children aged between three-years three-months and four-years six-months every year.
Barnardos’ director of advocacy Norah Gibbons said quality must be the byword for the scheme with emphasis placed equally on education and care.
Under the scheme, children enrolled in play schools will receive free pre-school provision of three hours per day, five days a week over a 38-week year. It equates to a weekly capitation grant to the service provider of e64.50 and parents with children enrolled in these services will not be charged.
The National Women’s Council of Ireland’s (NWCI) head of policy Orla O’Connor welcomed the scheme and had long argued that the supplement should be diverted into subsidising pre-school for children in care.
Children’s Rights alliance chief executive Jillian van Turnhout, said the country would benefit from the decision to replace the Early Childcare Supplement with a free year for pre-school children. “The country also wins from this decision, as for every euro spent on early childhood education and care, a return of over e7 can be expected.
“Study upon study show that investing in early childhood education and care brings about better educated, healthier children with better life chances. And that is good for the country,” said Ms van Turnhout.
The Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Barry Andrews said the decision was the right policy choice.
“The Government has... demonstrated our commitment to our children’s social and educational development. It is a key building block in the realisation of our plan for a smart economy,” he said.
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