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Higher Capitation Payment Delays

November 12, 2019

Our members have been in touch with us regarding the ongoing issue of delayed higher capitation payments and the serious impact that this is having on services across the country. These ongoing delays were compounded on Friday when providers began contacting us to say that payments had, once again not appeared. Pobal have since issued an apology for the delay, but this is not sufficient given the impossible situation that providers are in. We have written to Minister Zappone to express our deep dissatisfaction with the delays and to highlight the ongoing and severe issues providers face.

It is unacceptable that providers are having to deal with a myriad of issues since August, against a backdrop of re-registration and preparation for the National Childcare Scheme. While the interim payments are a relief for providers, this situation cannot be allowed to develop again.

The Department of Children and Youth Affairs has an overarching “Service Level Agreement” (SLA) with Pobal for the administration of funding for ECCE and other schemes. It is becoming very clear that the existing system, whereby funds are channelled through Pobal, isn’t working in a satisfactory way and the sector needs to be informed what is behind this.

Our Policy, Advocacy and Campaigning team has been working with the Labour Party’s spokesperson on Children and Youth Affairs, Seán Sherlock TD, to try and get answers from the Minister on the source of the payment delays. In November 2018, Deputy Sherlock submitted a Dáil question to the Minister asking her to account for the delays in Higher Capitation payments. You can see the full response here. In the response, the Minister sets out how the wholesale transfer of the ECCE administration to Pobal was to “enhance efficiency”.  In the response, the Minister also sets out how:

“Officials from the DCYA and Pobal are already in dialogue around ensuring efficient roll out of the Higher Capitation payments in the 2019/2020 programme year, including opening ECCE Higher Capitation for applications in advance of September 2019.” 

As this is clearly not the case, working again with Deputy Sherlock, we submitted a number of follow up Dáil questions to the Minister last week asking her to account for the delays and to outline the steps that were taken to address the problems, as delays seem to have gotten worse. You can see her response here. While the Minister acknowledges the issues being faced by providers, we are continuing to work with Deputy Sherlock to get more information regarding the “dialogue” Pobal outlined. We are also working with another TD to seek information regarding how the SLA operates and if Pobal will face consequences or a performance review for the levels of delay that are being experienced.  The Service Level Agreement should take account of the increasing number of applications for Higher Capitation and more administrative resources should be provided accordingly, if it fails to do so, it isn’t fit for purpose.

In the long term, we can see from our members that the Pobal funding model is not working correctly. Beyond delayed payments, the compliance regime and other issues are creating a fraught environment where it is impossible for services to operate effectively. We will continue to advocate for our members for a single agency for our sector, particularly in advance of the forthcoming general election. 

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