The Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) Programme
As part of the April 2009 Budget, the Irish Government announced a new programme to provide for a free Pre-School Year in Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) with effect from January 2010.
The programme is administered by the Childcare Directorate of the Department of Children and Youth Affairs, with the local operation of the programme managed by the City and County Childcare Committees (CCCs).
The objective of the ECCE programme, which is open to both community and commercial service providers, is to benefit children in the key developmental period prior to starting school.
The ECCE programme is open to all children aged between 3 years 3 months and 4 years 6 months on 1st September each year. (Children aged more than 3 years 2 months and less than 4 years 6 months of 1st September each year are accepted as qualifying.) To avail of the programme from September 2012, children must have been born between 2nd February 2008 and 30th June 2009.
Payment under the ECCE programme is by way of capitation fees which are paid directly to the service provider. A capitation fee is payable in respect of each child enrolled in the free pre-school year. A higher rate of capitation is payable in respect of sessional playschool services with highly qualified staff.
It is a fundamental principle of the scheme that the pre-school year is available free to parents, and all participating services are obliged to meet the costs of the free pre-school year out of the capitation fees. Services may, however, charge parents for anyadditional services provided, including additional hours and additional activities, provided that these are optional to parents and that appropriate programme-based activities are available to children not participating in the additional activities.
The Budget 2012 has several implications for providers of early childhood care and education and you can see a detailed list of the budget changes relating to childcare and preschool funding on the website of Department of Children and Youth Affairs.
Budget 2012 Changes to the ECCE Programme
Under the ECCE programme, participating childcare services are paid a capitation in respect of each child. Until September 2012, this was a weekly rate of €64.50, or €75 where the pre-school leaders hold degree level qualifications in Early Education.
From September 2012, these rates were reduced by approximately 3%, to €62.50 and €73 respectively.
The current staff/ child ratio for the ECCE programme is 1:10.
It was decided to increase this ratio to increase to a maximum of 1:11, from 1st September 2012.
Q: What about children in full daycare, where the ratios are different?
A: Currently there is a different ratio for children in the ECCE age cohort in daycare, as opposed to sessional care. For the duration of the ECCE programme session (currently 2¼ hours or 3 hours per day) the standard sessional ratios will apply. For the remainder of the day (i.e. the hours before and after the ECCE session) the normal ratio of 1:8 will continue to apply to children in daycare. The details of this change will be finalised in the context of the re-drafting of the Child Care (Pre-School Services) (No 2) Regulations 2006.
Q: How will this affect the income of services?
A: Where services are in a position to accommodate additional children, their total income will rise by 6.6%. If they do not increase their child numbers and maintain their current ratios, their income will fall by between 2.7% and 3.1%.
Q: What will happen if a service cannot attract additional children?
A: In that case, the income of the service from the ECCE programme will fall by €2 per child per week (€76 per child per year)
Existing ECCE/CETS Providers
You have until 29th March to re-enter the ECCE/CETS scheme in September.
Contact your local County Childcare Committee to do so.
You will need an up to date tax clearance certificate, provide copies of updated qualifications of staff pertinent to the scheme and, any changes to bank details.
New Applicants to CETS/ECCE
If you wish to register as a new applicant in either the CETS or ECCE Scheme in September 2013 you need to do so by Friday 29th March 2013.
Contact your local County Childcare Committee for an application form and further information.