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Briefing for Members Budget 2016

October 14, 2015

Please click here for a PDF version of the information on this page.

The following is an initial briefing on the changes made in the Governments Budget in the area of early years education and care. We have compiled this from information gleaned from the Budget speech, press releases by the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs and other sources. 

The Budget provided for an investment of an additional 85 million in early years education and care (for brevity, we will refer to as ‘childcare’). We welcome this investment as a first step in what we believe must be a 5 year programme to create a viable infrastructure that is accessible, affordable and sustainable. It is important that the sector contributes to shaping this investment to optimise the outcomes for children, parents and childcare providers.  

For our initial reaction yesterday to Budget 2016, please see our press release here

While we have tried to provide the most accurate information that we can, we may have erred and we would be delighted if you would get in touch if you spot anything that you suspect might not be accurate!  There is also much that still needs to be clarified.  We are seeking further information on particular aspects, and there are other matters that will be the subject of much work over the coming months to guide the developments heralded in the Budget.

Our approach will be to work with our members to gain a good understanding of the challenges and opportunities presented, including through an Early Childhood Ireland working group specially formed for this purpose. We will link this work closely with whatever structures are established by the Department of Children and Youth Affairs (DCYA) to drive implementation, ensuring that the knowledge and experience of members are brought to bear in guiding the development of the sector in the coming years. 

There are also other matters that are referred to below that receive insufficient attention in Budget 2016, which Early Childhood Ireland will continue to advocate for.  These include salaries, low levels of capitation, non-contact time, etc.  

NB: Please get back to us, we would welcome your comments or any further queries.  


We understand that:

  • The ‘free pre-school year’ has been extended to allow children take up a place from when they are 3 years old up until they are either 5 ½ years old or they begin primary school. 
  • Children will be able to enrol at 3 points throughout the year September, January and April. 
  • The free pre-school year will continue to run on a 38-week basis. 
  • The total amount of weeks a child is entitled to will depend on their date of birth. 
  • This table (from DCYA) sets out the average number of weeks preschool according to the child’s date of birth:




A child who turns 3 years old in January can enrol for their free preschool place in April. They will avail of this place from April to June, totalling 12 weeks.
The child returns in September until June the following year, totalling 38 weeks. The child can begin primary school the following September at 4 years old, meaning they have received 50 weeks of free pre-school education, or opt for another preschool year.
If the child returns to preschool again they will avail of another 38 weeks from September to June. In this example the child will have received 88 weeks free pre-school education.
  • The free pre-school capitation grant will be restored to €64.50 per week and €75 per week for those qualifying for the higher capitation.
  • Currently 67,000 children avail of the free pre-school year and it is estimated 127,000 children will benefit from free pre-school in a given year.  
  • The extension of the ‘free preschool year’ will come into effect from September 2016.  


A common query that the Department has received is as follows: “My child is eligible for ECCE this year but as I don’t intend on him/her starting primary school until September 2017 I was waiting until September 2016 to use the ECCE entitlement. If I register my child for the ECCE Programme now will s/he also be eligible for ECCE for the 2016/17 Programme year?” 

The answer to this is as follows:

  • Children who were aged between 3 years 2 months and 4 years 7 months in September this year (Born between 2nd February 2011 and 30th June 2012 inclusive) are eligible for late entry into this year’s ECCE programme where places are available. These children will be able to continue in the programme in September 2016 – once they are not older than 5 years and 6 months at the end of the current pre-school year (i.e. June 2017)

  • The change announced in Budget 2016 means that, from September 2016, children will be able to register for free pre-school when they are aged 3, and will be able to remain in pre-school until they make the transition to primary school (provided they are not older 5 years 6 months at the end of the pre-school year i.e. the end of June).
  • The change to the pre-school programme announced in yesterday’s budget take effect from September 2016.
  • Children who are currently enrolled for the free pre-school programme (i.e. on the basis of the eligibility criteria which applied in September this year) will be able to continue in the programme in September 2016 – once they are not older than 5 years and 6 months at the end of that pre-school year i.e. June 2017)
  • From September 2016 the minimum enrolment age for free pre-school is age 3.

In addition, there are some fundamental issues which must be addressed in order to ensure the success of the ECCE and how it fits with other childcare provision:

  • How the capacity of the sector can be built to provide the additional free preschool places, including the infrastructure, the number of qualified early childhood educators and ensuring the quality of the setting. 
  • How we can ensure that highly qualified early childhood educators remain in the sector, given the limitations imposed by a 38-week year. 
  • How the development of ECCE can contribute to the development of sustainable models of provision for all age groups, including for under 3’s and after-school provision.  

We will be working closely with the Department of Children and Youth Affairs to contribute to shaping the ECCE, as set out above


Children with Additional Needs

15m has been allocated for 2016 to improving the situation for Children with Additional Needs. This spend is estimated to increase to 33m in 2017. We are expecting that the report of the Interdepartmental Group on Special Needs in Preschool will be published in the coming weeks.  Until then the details below are sketchy.

The following diagram from the DCYA outlines a model to guide access to the ECCE for Children with Additional Needs:


We understand that:

  • Every service can apply to participation in an Inclusion Training programme.  This programme will be certified at HETAC Level 6 and is currently being designed.  It is expected to be available in early 2016.
  • Having completed this training, a service can notify as an ‘inclusive setting’, i.e. at level 1 above, and appoint a member of staff to the role of Inclusion Co-ordinator
  • For services that have an inclusion co-ordinator (someone working in the service who has undertaken the training) and that gain approval, it is envisaged that a higher capitation will be payable to the service. 
  • A website and information packs will be developed for parents and providers.
  • The Better Start Early Years Specialist Service will be enhanced to provide support to all services in this area.
  • Where there is a child with special needs in the service, at level 7 in the above framework (approximately 1.5% of all children in preschool), where none of the other supports meet their participation needs, there will be an additional capitation made available. Parents and providers will be able to work together to apply for this capitation to provide additional supports and be able to decide how this capitation is spent, e.g. on hirign additional staff.


A number of matters have been brought to our attention already which need clarification, including:

  • How a service will access the Inclusion Co-ordinator training. 
  • When the training come on stream. 
  • What exact supports will be available through the Better Start Early Years Specialist Service and how how a service will access them. 
  • How applications for additional capitation will be made and on what basis funding will be made available.  


Community Childcare Subvention (CCS) and Affordable Childcare Programme

We understand that …

  • An additional 8,000 children will be able to avail of affordable childcare places (3,200 full-time equivalent places) through the Community Childcare Subvention scheme in 2016. 
  • This is in addition to 5,000 extra places children (2,000 full-time equivalent places), on average uptake, which are being made available this year.
  • For the rest of 2015 the additional 5,000 children availing of the affordable CCS childcare places will be able to do so in Community/Non-Profit settings, as has always been the case. 
  • In 2016, private providers will also be able to offer the additional 8,000 affordable CCS childcare places but ONLY in areas where there is insufficient existing community provision (e.g. Swords, Letterkenny). 
  • The existing targeted funding schemes (CCS, TEC, ASCC, CETS and CEC) are going to be replaced by a single subsidy programme, the Affordable Childcare Programme in 2017.
  • A dedicated Project Team is being set up now to develop the Affordable Childcare Programme so that it is up and running by 2017.
  • The Affordable Childcare Programme will be delivered by both community/not-for-profit and private childcare providers.

A number of matters have been brought to our attention already which need clarification, including:

  • How the affordable childcare places will be allocated. 
  • When in 2016 these affordable childcare places will be available. 
  • Whether there will be a cap on the fees that a provider can charge if they are participating in the Affordable Childcare Programme.  


After School Provision

We understand that …

  • A €3 million capital fund will be available for the development of after-school services using existing school and accessible community facilities.
  • The DCYA will encourage schools to collaborate with existing services to make the necessary capital funding applications in order to provide more after school places. 
  • The Consultation Unit in the DCYA will be engaging in consultations with children over the coming period to ascertain what it is they want/require in an after-school setting.  

A number of matters have been brought to our attention already which need clarification, including:

  • What constitutes an accessible community setting i.e. what type of provider will be able to avail of the capital allocation.   
  • What measures will be put in place to avoid displacement.  



We understand that …

  • An Audit Tool will be designed in the coming months.
  • It is expected the Audits of quality will take place every three years.
  • There will be additional investment in the Learner Fund of €1.5 million. 
  • €0.5m will be made available for the Siolta Quality Assurance programme, which is designed to ensure children benefit from high quality care.
  • The funding allocated to inspections will allow for an expanded team which will monitor compliance and continue the education-focused inspections DCYA began this year.  


A number of matters have been brought to our attention already which need clarification, including:

  • Who is developing the audit tool and how the sector will be consulted on its design. 
  • Who will be undertaking the audit. 
  • What training opportunities will be made available through the Learner Fund. 
  • What level of training will be included. 
  • Whether Continuing Professional Development is included in the Learner Fund. 
  • How the additional funding for Síolta will be allocated. 
  • When the inspectorate will be fully operational.  



We understand that …

  • Budget 2016 makes no commitment to addressing salaries in the sector.  There is a need to link salaries to qualifications in order ensure a high quality and sustainable early childhood sector.   
  • There has been no allocation to support professional time (non-contact time), required to plan and evaluate curriculum, to engage with the national frameworks (Aistear and Siolta), to work with parents, to participate in staff meetings and to complete required documentation.


Paternity Leave

We understand that …

  • 2 weeks paid Paternity Leave will be available for new fathers from September 2016.


Further Information

Some more details that were announced by the DCYA following the member briefing:

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