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Indefinite extension of targeted Schemes

November 19, 2019

As members know, the CCSP Scheme closed to new applications as of last Friday, 15 November, and the TEC Scheme will close to new applications as of 14 February 2020. The Department of Children and Youth Affairs had previously announced that those on these Schemes before the close-off dates would be allowed to choose between their current Scheme and the new National Childcare Scheme until August 2020. Then, as part of the 2020 Budget announcement the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Dr. Katherine Zappone TD said that this would be extended until August 2021.
 
It was therefore very surprising to see, last week, in a written response to a parliamentary question, the Minister now say that families currently availing of these Schemes can continue to do so ‘until they no longer require early learning and care or school age childcare, or are no longer eligible under the terms of the legacy scheme.’ This development is also covered by Sheila Wayman in an article published in today’s edition of the Irish Times.
 
While we recognise that this is welcome news for those families who wish to continue availing of their current Schemes, the move prevents other families in similar circumstances from availing of the same level of support in future. In effect, this creates a two-tier, potentially divisive system and one that fails to reflect the intended policy objectives of the National Childcare Scheme. Indeed, families with older children already enrolled on these Schemes may not be able to avail of the same supports for their younger children.
 
Further, this development has serious implications for Early Childhood Ireland members, who will have to continue engaging with complex Schemes on an indefinite basis. This will only worsen an already onerous administrative burden on providers. It was envisaged that the National Childcare Scheme would end this level of complexity and create a streamlined process for families to avail of and for providers to administer smoothly.
 
Early Childhood Ireland will express our concerns about this development to the Department and other policy makers. We are also seeking clarification that Programme Support Payments will continue to be paid to providers who will have to engage with the existing Schemes and the National Childcare Scheme (NCS).
 
The NCS was intended as a landmark step to move Ireland closer to a Scandinavian system, including making subsidies more transparent for providers and families, and in so doing facilitate quality early years experiences for all young children. It is very concerning that, following a number of delays, and ongoing uncertainty in relation to the Public Services Card, this out-of-the-blue development has occurred with  no proper communication. Moves such as this highlight the lack of focused, concerted planning for our sector. Early Childhood Ireland’s members have had to pick up the pieces of poor administration and planning for too long. Current and future governments must increase subsidies under the National Childcare Scheme, so that every child in every family can avail of an equitable subsidy, and so as to ensure that quality care and education experiences are delivered within a properly resourced early years sector.
 
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