Children’s Minister Katherine Zappone (Ind) announced a subsidised childcare package as part of Budget 2017. It is due to come into force from September.
Under the Single Affordable Childcare Scheme, parents will qualify for a targeted subsidy based on their net income.
Fine Gael TD Jim Daly, who chairs the Oireachtas committee on children, said rent and mortgage payments should be taken into account. His views were backed by Fine Gael senator Catherine Noone, who is also a member of the committee.
Mr Daly said: “Currently there is no mention of mortgage or rental payments when it comes to the means testing of the scheme. This is absolutely essential when it comes to the application process.
“Families are being pushed financially to keep a roof over their heads and provide for their children. This has to be taken into account when they apply for this scheme which will be of immense benefit to them.”
Mr Daly pointed out that mortgage and rental costs are taken into account when assessing people for medical cards and he did not see why the same could not be done for the childcare scheme. He said many family are “making sacrifices” to afford the cost of childcare.
Under the scheme, 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.
Ms Noone said the issue of taking account of rental and mortgage costs is something that would have to be discussed when the committee meets on Wednesday.
“It would make sense to me because if you look at your typical middle-income couple, by the time they pay the mortgage they don’t have a lot of disposable income.
“We will have to thrash it out,” she said.
Mr Daly pointed out that all childcare providers would have to be registered with Tusla to qualify for the scheme.
He said there are around 20,000 childminders looking after children — mainly in their own homes — but only around 125 are registered, along with 4,500 crèches and centres.
When the scheme was announced last October, the Department of Children encouraged childminders to register so they could undergo the vetting process ahead of the September start date.
It is expected the scheme will cost around €150m a year.
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.
“This is just the first step. We cannot achieve all we want to in one year, but we are using the benefits of a strong economy to improve people’s lives and make childcare more affordable for hard-pressed families,” said Mr Daly.