The two new schemes have been introduced under the umbrella single affordable childcare scheme. They haven’t been given individual names yet so we’ll call them “the first scheme” and “second scheme”. The first scheme is the “universal” open-to-all childcare scheme. It is open to all, even if you and your partner are both hospital consultants with a total household income of €480,000 per year.
It’s open to parents of children aged six months to three years. A subsidy towards the cost of your childcare will be paid directly by the department to your crèche. You won’t receive a payment. After the age of three, all such children, again irrespective of parental income, are entitled to the two free preschool years under the Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) scheme.
All crèches registered with Tusla, the Child and Family Agency, will be taking part. The problem is that if you’d rather your baby or toddler be cared for by a childminder, you won’t get any subsidy under this scheme. That is unless your childminder is one of the 160 childminders registered with Tusla.
The subsidy is basically paid on a pro-rata basis of 50c per hour up to a maximum of 40 hours. This means that if your child is in a crèche for 40 hours a week as you work full time, the maximum subsidy you will get per child is €80 per month. Yes, it’s better than a kick in the head but it won’t make an enormous dent in your full-time crèche bills which can range from €800 to a whopping €1,000 per child, depending on where you live.
The second schemes depends on how much income is coming into your home. This will help with childcare costs for children aged six months to 15 years — as long as their parents earn under €47,500 when their salaries are combined. Therefore, it will benefit low earners, lone parents who weren’t returning to work because of childcare costs, those on back to work allowance and other social welfare allowances. And yes, it has been pointed out though that some of these ‘targeted’ groups may already have been receiving a subsidised childcare place at community crèches because of their welfare status.
This subsidy applies to all children from six months right up to aged 15. Yes, it means that you get help with afterschool childcare too and also with childcare during the summer holidays. Like the first scheme, it’s also paid directly to the crèche.
As well as actually giving us a name for both schemes, the minister is promising more much-needed detail by the end of the month. While the second scheme has an eligibility ceiling of €47,500, the rate of subsidy for those earning €22,700-€47,500 haven’t been decided yet. We do know that if you have a household income of €22,700 or under you will receive the maximum payments — €5.38 per hour for a child under one, €4.60 per hour for a child under 2, €4.40 per hour for a child under 3, €4.16 per hour for a child aged 3-5, etc. The maximum you can receive is €8,000 per year if your child is in a crèche 40 hours per week and you earn less than €22,700. A spokesman for the minister said this second scheme will operate on a sliding scale, so those earning €22,700-€45,500 will still get a subsidy but less than those earning under €22,700.
Under the existing schemes in community crèches, a lone parent may have qualified for a subsidy of €95 per week but they would have had to pay €85 per week from their salary. Under the new scheme, this family will qualify for a weekly subsidy of €176 and will only have to pay €4.