State-subsidised childcare, paid on a sliding scale, could cover all costs for lower- income families under budget negotiations being led by Minister for Children Katherine Zappone.
The minister confirmed yesterday a major five-year childcare plan was discussed by Cabinet ministers this week.
“We are considerably behind our OECD and European partners. We need to do something for affordability for all families. The plan will initially make it easier for a family to apply for their childcare needs according to their income,” she said.
Details of the plan are yet to be agreed by the minority government. But one model being considered would see a couple on a joint income of €47,000 have most of their childcare costs covered.
The State would pay the subsidy directly to childcare providers and the system will be streamlined so future governments can easily tweak and change levels, according to the amount of funds available.
Ministers are expected next week to whittle down a combined €3bn wishlist submitted for the budget.
Ms Zappone told Limerick’s Live 95FM:“According to certain thresholds, whether it is €30,000 or €40,000 or €20,000, they will receive a subsidy that is relative to where they are on the income scale, so it is a sliding scale. So the less you are earning, the little bit more that you are going to get as subsidies for your childcare needs.”
Sources in the minister’s department confirmed the system would likely not come into effect until September 2017.
Ms Zappone had also indicated the Government would put in place “a system that would support public subsidisation of childcare needs”.
However, bringing childcare cover into line with European standards could cost €500m over the five years, she suggested. “That is probably more than we are going to get, but that is at least the ambition that I am putting out there.”
The programme for government has promised “the introduction of a robust model for subsidised high-quality childcare for children aged 9 to 36 months”.
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