National Childcare Scheme – Statement by Minister Zappone

National Childcare Scheme – Statement by Minister Zappone

NMinister for Children and Youth Affairs, Katherine Zappone, T.D., will update Government this week on the development of the new National Childcare Scheme.  Good progress is being made.  Many of the major elements are now in place in preparation for the Scheme’s opening in October 2019.

  • Over 2,100 providers have signed up to participate in the Scheme.
  • A dedicated website, launched in March, has received over 150,000 hits and over 50,000 parent information booklets have been distributed nationwide.
  • A Parent Support Centre for the National Childcare Scheme opened last week.  It is available to assist parents or guardians with any queries regarding the new National Childcare Scheme. It is open Monday to Friday from 9:00am – 5:00pm and parents can contact the centre by calling (01) 906 8530.

While good progress is being made, the Minister noted that the development of the Scheme is highly complex and has thrown up challenges along the way.  This would be expected with a scheme of this size which will benefit many families across Ireland. In particular, the Minister referenced the development of the Scheme’s supporting ICT system.  The highly innovative system is being designed to deliver the option of a user-friendly, paperless, automated assessment process for parents.  The Minister explained:

“We know parents have a lot on their plate, so we are designing an application process that will be as safe, speedy and stress-free as possible.  This means that we have to plan for and develop 30,000 different applicant circumstances and choices through the system, to cater for all possible variations.”

Given the ambition of the National Childcare Scheme, and the associated challenges this brings, the experts overseeing its development have recommended a phased launch approach.  While the main IT system to deal with online applications is largely built, work is continuing on the supporting structures to deal with postal applications. We will deliver online, on time, in October.  The paper based system will be available in January for those who do not wish to apply online.  

Parents will be able to apply for the Scheme online or by post.  In order to get the Scheme safely up and running, it will open firstly to online applications, commencing in October 2019, with subsidy payments flowing from November.  The Scheme will then open to paper-based (i.e. postal) applications in January 2020.  From this point on, parents can apply either via the online or the postal route.

Accepting the expert recommendation, the Minister noted that:

“This approach allows us to deliver the important benefits of the Scheme to parents and providers from this October as promised.  It also allows us to deliver the type of timely, user-friendly experience which we have worked so hard to design and which innovative ICT enables.  Alongside this, we have supports in place to ensure that any parent who wishes to apply online but lacks IT access or knowledge can get practical help.

In addition to our new Parent Support Centre, all 30 of our City and County Childcare Committees are available to provide information and practical support to parents. We have also been working with and providing training to many key stakeholders and groups who support vulnerable families.  In addition, we have been delighted to engage positively with Intreo Offices, Citizens Information Services and library services, and will be continuing this important work in the weeks and months ahead.”

The Minister emphasised the importance of parents getting MyGovID-verified so that they are ready to apply for the Scheme once it launches later this year.      

The Parent Support Centre will help parents with any queries they may have regarding the application process. Their local City or County Childcare Committee is also available to help.

The National Childcare Scheme is the first ever statutory entitlement to financial support for childcare in Ireland. It aims to improve outcomes for children, support lifelong learning, reduce child poverty and tangibly reduce the cost of quality childcare for thousands of families across Ireland.

To ensure continuity of service for both parents and providers, the existing childcare support programmes will continue to operate until the launch of the National Childcare Scheme and for the 2019/2020 programme year. Children registered on these schemes will be able to remain on them for the duration of the academic year or switch over to the National Childcare Scheme once it launches.

Further information for parents and providers is available on the Scheme’s dedicated website: https://ncs.gov.ie/