This document outlines the types of childcare services available and the schemes which may help families with the cost of childcare. It also gives a brief introduction to the National Childcare Strategy and City/County Childcare Committees.
National Childcare Strategy 2006-2010
As part of the National Childcare Strategy 2006-2010 the National Childcare Investment Programme (NCIP) is responsible for increasing the supply and quality of childcare facilities in Ireland. It is also responsible for co-ordinating activities from national to local level. The Community Childcare Subvention Scheme 2008-2010 (CCSS) was set up as as part of the National Childcare Investment Programme (NCIP). The Community Childcare Subvention (CCS) Programme succeeded the Community Childcare Subvention Scheme in September 2010 - see below.
City/County Childcare Committees
The City/County Childcare Committees (CCCs) develop and implement a co-ordinated strategy for the provision of quality, affordable and accessible childcare within each county. The CCCs help communities identify gaps in current childcare services and develop new services to meet these needs. They provide information on funding and grant applications and facilitate a co-ordinated approach to childcare training at all levels.
Deciding on childcare appropriate to your needs is a major decision for any parent. There are a number of factors that will make an impact on your final decision. These include:
By law, pre-school childcare facilities must be notified to, and be inspected by the Health Service Executive (HSE) which has published a list of tips on choosing a pre-school. More detailed information about the regulation of childcare services is available from your Local Health Office - see 'Where to apply' below. Your City/County Childcare Committee can provide a list of childcare providers in your area. They can also put you in touch with your local HSE pre-school officer -see 'How to apply' below. When enquiring from a childcare service provider about your childcare options, check that staff are qualified and the provider has appropriate childcare policies and procedures (child protection, behaviour management and fire and accident etc). It is also important to check fees, hours, and holiday periods. Make sure to visit when there are children present, so you get a feel for the atmosphere.
Some childcare options may be distinguished simply by their opening hours or management structures, and others by the curriculum of education that they use. Staff training can also determine the type of service available, as can the general needs of parents in your area. Different types of childcare services include:
Full day care
This is a structured care service for more than 3.5 hours per day. Providers care for children from 3 months to 6 years. Some may also include an after-school facility. In full day care, sleeping arrangements and food preparation must meet standards laid down by the Health Service Executive. Providers include day nurseries and crèches.
These services offer a planned programme consisting of up to 3.5 hours per session (such as a morning or an afternoon). Generally, they cater for children between 2 and 6 years of age. These services may also be provided for younger children. In order to provide a sessional childcare service, a recognised childcare qualification is required. Sessional services include:
Childminders care for children in the minder’s own home. A childminder can care for up to 5 children under 6 years of age (including the childminder’s own). The service is usually offered for the full working day or for different periods during the day. Parents and childminders arrange their own terms and conditions.
As part of the National Childminding Initiative, childminding development grants and guidelines for childminders (pdf) are available to childminders from their local City or County Childcare Committee (CCC). In addition, there is a childminder’s tax relief for people who mind up to 3 children in their own home. No tax is payable on their childminding earnings provided the earnings are less than €15,000 per year. If the earnings exceed this amount, tax is payable on the full amount. Childminders must include their childminding income in their annual tax return. They must also notify their local CCC that they are providing a childminding service.
An au pair is a young person who is treated as a family member in exchange for certain services, such as a limited amount of light housework or help minding children. It is a voluntary arrangement between a private household and a private individual. The objective of the arrangement is to enable the au pair to experience a different culture and improve his or her foreign language skills.
There is no specific regulatory framework covering au pairs. An au pair is not a professional nanny or child minder. Au pairs are not employees and there is no contract of employment between the host family and the au pair. The au pair is usually given room and board and paid weekly pocket-money. There are specialist private agencies that can assist you to source an au pair.
A drop-in centre offers a service for short periods during the day. These centres are often provided in shopping centres, leisure centres, accommodation facilities, etc. The service is provided as part of a customer or client service and children are looked after while the parent is availing of a service or attending an event.
Services for schoolchildren can include breakfast clubs, after school clubs and school holiday programmes such as summer camps, etc. Depending on the service, there may also be homework supervision, planned activities or a nutritious meal.
Affordable childcare is intended to provide childcare for families on lower incomes, and also to support parents to return to work or education. This type of service is called a community childcare (not-for-profit) facility. Funding is available through the National Childcare Investment Programme (NCIP). For more information on affordable childcare services in your area, contact your local City/County Childcare Committee - see 'Where to apply' below.
Community Childcare Subvention Programme: The Community Childcare Subvention (CCS) Programme aims to support all community-based childcare services to enable them to provide quality childcare services at reduced rates to disadvantaged parents. For more detail about this programme - see 'Further information' below.
The Childcare Directorate of the Department of Children and Youth Affairs has responsibility for implementing the National Childcare Strategy 2006-2010 and manages the NCIP in conjunction with Pobal. It has published a guide to the National Childcare Strategy for parents.
New after school childcare scheme: A new scheme providing after school childcare places will be made available to people who have been long-term unemployed or were former recipients of the One-Parent Family Payment and who have got a job offer or have significantly increased their part-time hours.
Social welfare claimants who meet the criteria will get a letter of eligibility from their social welfare local office, which will also inform them of the amount of after school childcare provision they may get. They will then be referred to their nearest County Childcare Committee who will connect them with the relevant childcare providers.
The rate per child for the scheme includes a €35 per week subvention and a parental contribution of €20 per week. During school holidays, the subvention rate will increase to €100 per week but the parental contribution will remain at €20 per week.
If you are granted a subsidised after school care place you will be able to retain this place for one year (52 weeks) as long as you remain in employment.
Early Childhood Care and Education Scheme
The Early Childhood Care and
Education (ECCE) Scheme started in January 2010. This scheme provides a
free year of childcare and early education for all children of pre-school age.
The scheme replaced the Early Childcare Supplement, which ended in December
Childcare costs depend the type of childcare you choose, the number of hours and the level of staff training in that facility.
There is no charge for the year of pre-school education provided under the
Early Childhood Care and Education scheme.
Your local City/County Childcare Committee will have a list of childcare providers in your area. You can also apply to the HSE preschool officer at your Local Health Office for information about childcare services locally. Public health nurses will often be familiar with local services and childminders within your area and can be contacted at your local health centre.
There is a list of national voluntary childcare organisations which promote quality in childcare.
Early Childhood Care and Education Scheme: Childcare providers who wish to participate in this scheme should apply to their local City or County Childcare Committee – see ‘Where to apply’ below. The application form and further information for childcare providers are on the website of the Department of Children and Youth Affairs.
Childminders: If you are interested in becoming a childminder, you should contact your local City/County Childcare Committee for further information about the Quality Awareness Lecture Programme. On completion of this programme, childminders may avail of a capital grant of up to €630 under the Childminder Development Grant Scheme.
The Community Childcare Subvention (CCS) Programme succeeded the Community Childcare Subvention Scheme 2008-2010 (CCSS). The programme enables childcare services provide quality services at reduced rates to disadvantaged parents. From September 2012, the Community Childcare Subvention Programme funds community childcare services to provide reduced weekly fees to certain parents as follows:
Band A - parents get a weekly fee reduction of €95 for a full-time service, €47.50 for a part-time service, €31.35 for sessional service and €15.20 for a shorter hours service.
This band applies to parents who have a medical card and are getting one of the following:
Band AJ - parents get a fee reduction of €50 for a full-time service, €47.50 for a part-time service, €31.35 for sessional service and €15.20 for a shorter hours service.
This band applies to parents who have a medical card and are getting one of the following:
Band B – parents get a fee reduction of €50 for a full-time service, €25 for a part-time service, €17 for a sessional service and €8.50 for a shorter hours service.
This band applies to parents who:
Parents whose child is getting the free year of preschool education under the Early Childhood Care and Education Scheme, may not also get a CCS fee reduction at the same time. Parents can decide which scheme would be most advantageous to them.
There are further details about the Community Childcare Subvention bands and rates (pdf) on the Department of Children and Youth Affairs website
Community childcare providers already funded under the scheme and new entrants can apply to the Department of Children and Youth Affairs for funding.
If you have a question relating to this topic you can contact the Citizens Information Phone Service on 0761 07 4000 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 8pm) or you can visit your local Citizens Information Centre.