Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth | Providing afterschool services for students for employed parents among high mortgages
To ask the Minister for Children; Equality; Disability; Integration and Youth the ongoing efforts, if any, to provide afterschool services given the necessity for both parents to remain in employment due to high mortgages; if it is anticipated that this issue is being provided for in a meaningful way; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
On 15 September, I launched Together for Better, the new funding model for early learning and childcare. This new funding model supports the delivery of early learning and childcare for the public good, for quality and affordability for children, parents and families as well as stability and sustainability for providers. Together for Better brings together three major programmes, the Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) programme, including the Access and Inclusion Model (AIM), the National Childcare Scheme (NCS) and the new Core Funding scheme.
Core Funding, which began in September, is the new funding stream worth €259 million in full year costs to start the partnership for the public good between the State and providers. Its primary purpose is to improve pay and conditions in the sector as a whole and improve affordability for parents as well as ensuring a stable income to providers.
Core Funding has provided evidence of increased capacity in ELC and SAC. Initial analysis shows the increased capacity is the type of capacity that is in highest demand relative to supply (i.e. more baby and toddler and school-age place hours). The geographical breakdown across the country also indicates expansion in urban and commuter areas where there has been significant pressure on places.
Core Funding allows for substantial increases in the total cost base for the sector, related both to pay and non-pay costs, without additional costs being passed on to parents. Core Funding introduces fee management, which in year one is a fee freeze, where providers cannot increase the fees charged from last September 2021. This ensures that parents’ costs do not increase and that the increased National Childcare Scheme (NCS) subsidies are fully felt by parents. 94% of services have now signed up to Core Funding, ensuring that the fee freeze impacts very widely. Core Funding also requires Partner Services to offer the NCS and/or ECCE to all eligible parents to ensure that parents can avail of their full entitlement to subsidised provision.
The NCS provides financial support to help parents meet the cost of childcare. It is available to families with children aged between 24 weeks and 15 years who are attending any participating Tusla registered childcare service, including any Tusla registered school-age childcare services, and any Tusla registered childminder. It should be noted that the National Action Plan for Childminding 2021-2028 commits to enabling all childminders to register with Tusla, thereby opening the National Childcare Scheme to all childminders at the earliest possible opportunity.
Budget 2023 allocates €1.025 billion to early learning and childcare – a clear demonstration from Government of the value of the sector. Together for Better aims to transform the sector and I committed to working with Partner Services delivering early learning and childcare for the public good.
My Department funds a national network of County Childcare Committees (CCC) who provide support and advice to parents and childcare providers including support on applying for the various funding schemes administered by the Department and assistance for parents on all aspects of childcare. Contact details for all of the CCCs are available at www.myccc.ie.
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