The latest news and information

Minister Zappone updates the Children’s Committee of the Oireachtas on the Affordable Childcare Scheme

January 30, 2018

 

Last Wednesday, 24th January 2018, the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Dr Katherine Zappone TD, appeared before the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Children and Youth Affairs. The Minister updated the Committee on progress toward the full roll out of the Affordable Childcare Scheme.

Since the introduction of More Affordable Childcare in September 2017, the Minister advised the Committee that 88% of applicable early years services have signed up to provide the universal and targeted supports. This means that More Affordable Childcare is available to children and families in 9 out of 10 Tusla registered early years services throughout Ireland. Over 66,000 children (95% of the estimated total of eligible children) are receiving a subsidy. Minister Zappone reiterated that €18 million for Programme Support Payments to providers for the management and administration of More Affordable Childcare has been secured for 2018 and onwards.  She encouraged outstanding services to sign-up to deliver the supports. The Minister went on to discuss the three essential components to delivering the Affordable Childcare Scheme: the IT, legislative and administrative infrastructure.

 

Legislation

In terms of the legislation, the Childcare Support Bill 2017 is already before the Dáil and will be debated at Second Stage on Wednesday 31st January.  The Childcare Support Bill 2017 aims to provide the statutory basis for the Affordable Childcare Scheme and includes provisions on: who can provide it; who is eligible for financial support; governance and data-sharing arrangements between the relevant Government Departments and agencies.  Minister Zappone is hoping for a speedy passage of the Bill through the Houses of the Oireachtas to ensure both costs and IT development timelines are maintained. You can read the Bill and other relevant documents here. If you have concerns about anything contained in the Childcare Support Bill 2017 you can:

  • Contact ECI’s Policy Officer, Amy McArdle amcardle@earlychildhoodireland.ie who will incorporate your concerns into our communications with TDs and Senators about the Bill;
  • Contact your own local representatives to discuss your concerns directly. Please find contact information for elected representatives by constituency here.

For more information on how a Bill (a proposal for legislation) becomes an Act (legislation), please see A Brief Guide to the Legislative Process.

 

IT Development

Regarding the development of the necessary IT infrastructure, the Committee was told that on advice from the Chief State Solicitor’s Office a full open tender procurement process is required for the IT portion of the project. This is a much longer tender process than DCYA originally envisaged and the department is consequently unable to give a definitive timeline for the launch of the full Affordable Childcare Scheme. Minister Zappone did confirm that the universal and targeted supports under More Affordable Childcare will continue into the 2018/19 programme year. 

 

While ECI appreciates the complexity involved in developing the IT system for the Affordable Childcare Scheme, and notwithstanding the commitment to continuing Programme Support Payments, we are disappointed that parents and providers will not be engaging with the streamlined, automated and more user-friendly experience promised under the Affordable Childcare Scheme from September 2018.  We are also concerned that another, essential piece of infrastructure to the success of the Affordable Childcare Scheme-recruitment and retention of qualified early years professionals- is being overlooked. Please see ECI’s Press Release following the Minister’s presentation to the Committee for further detail. 

 

ECI priorities reflected by the Children’s Committee

Among the representations made to the Minister by members of the Joint Oireachtas Committee, ECI was pleased to hear our concerns about staff recruitment and retention raised by Kathleen Funchion TD, the Committee’s rapporteur on The Report on Working Conditions of the Early Years Education and Care Sector (July 2017).

Anne Rabbitte TD spoke to a number of concerns ECI has flagged about the Childcare Support Bill, chiefly the proposal to reduce the means-tested subsidy to a maximum of 15 hours of childcare per week, inclusive of time spent in school or preschool, for children where one or both parents are not engaged in formal work or study and how the Minister intends to define “work” and “study” in future regulation. You can read ECI’s initial reaction to the Childcare Support Bill 2017 in January’s edition of Advocacy in Action. We were also heartened by support for ECI’s position on commercial rates, reflected by comments made by Alan Farrell TD, Chairperson of the Children’s Committee. Deputy Farrell spoke of the need to recognise early years provision as essential social infrastructure. Minister Zappone agreed that there is a strong case to be made here but believes legislative change would be required.

Please find the full transcript of the Committee session here

 

 

 

Share share share share
Tags: , , , , , , , ,
Site maintained and developed by Cloud Nine