Thousands of children still waiting for support under Affordable Childcare Scheme
Labour local representative Joanna Tuffy has highlighted that an estimated 9,000 children promised support under the Affordable Childcare Scheme nearly two years ago are still waiting, with no confirmed implementation date.
Commenting on the situation, Joanna said:
“Information provided in response to a parliamentary question shows that an estimated 9,000 children who were promised support under the Affordable Childcare Scheme are still waiting despite the original announcement in October 2016 saying this would be in place by Government from September 2017.
“The Affordable Scheme was announced in this Government’s first budget, and was supposed to replace the existing targeted schemes. To date that has not happened and while there has been partial delivery through the Universal Childcare Payment and increases in thresholds and payments under the existing targeted schemes, those improvements fall short of what was promised by the Minister for Children, Katherine Zappone, when she announced the new Affordable Childcare Scheme almost 2 years ago.
“In reply to a Labour Party Dáil Question the Department of Children and Youth Affairs estimated that approximately 9,000 children would not benefit from the interim measures she has introduced pending the delivery of the Affordable Childcare Scheme. The Department’s estimate includes an estimate of the numbers of children aged 3 and older whose family incomes are above the threshold for a GP Visit Card but below the threshold for the Affordable Childcare Scheme.
“The Minister has said that progress has been made in developing the Affordable Childcare Scheme including the recent enactment of the Childcare Support Act 2018 and that a contractor is in place to develop the ICT system to underpin the Scheme.
“However in her Dáil reply she was not able to give any date as to when the scheme will be finally introduced. Her excuse for not introducing the scheme, i.e. lack of ICT capacity, is the same excuse she gave for not introducing the Scheme this time last year. There was no indication when the Scheme was first announced in October 2016 that it might not be feasible to introduce pending a new ICT system being in place.
“Time is ticking on for the Minister for delivering the Affordable Childcare Scheme she announced with such fanfare in October 2016. It was a big ticket of the Budget for 2017. With the last Budget under the Government Partnership Agreement due this Autumn it is time the Minister delivered on this Scheme for all the children who were supposed to benefit from childcare supports.”
Response to Parliamentary Question below:
For Written Answer on : 11/07/2018
Question Number(s): 512 Question Reference(s): 31187/18
Department: Children and Youth Affairs
Asked by: Jan O’Sullivan T.D.
To ask the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the position regarding the estimated 9,000 families that are yet to benefit from the affordablechildcare scheme (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. (Details Supplied) will they be able to avail of the Scheme in September 2018 or from what date are they expected to be able to avail of the scheme
In order to fast-track many of the benefits of the Affordable Childcare Scheme, in September 2017 I introduced a range of interim measures. These involved an increase of up to 50% in current targeted childcare subsidy rates and a new universal subsidy for all children aged between 6 months and 3 years who are in a Tusla-registered setting. To date these measures have seen very good take-up rates and 76,000 children have benefited. These measures will continue to be available over 2018 and 2019.
Prior to the introduction of those measures in September 2017, it was estimated that approximately 9,000 children, who would not benefit from these interim measures, would benefit from the Affordable Childcare Scheme once launched. This estimate was based on:
(a) the numbers of children aged 3 and older whose family incomes are above the threshold for a GP Visit Card but below the threshold for the Affordable ChildcareScheme, and
(b) the numbers of children aged 3 and older whose parents may be eligible for a GP Visit Card – or other eligibility criterion – but have not taken it up.
However, in advance of the Scheme starting, there is considerable difficulty in predicting the number of children who will benefit from subsidies under the Scheme, because of uncertainty around ‘dynamic’ effects on the demand for childcare. This uncertainty means that the figure of 9,000 was, and continues to be, a tentative estimate.
The Deputy has asked about the date from which the scheme will be available.
I am glad to report that officials at my Department are making good progress in the development of the Affordable Childcare Scheme. This involves intensive work across legislative, ICT, administrative, governance and communications areas, with positive progress being made across all of these areas.
With regard to the legislation establishing the new Affordable Childcare Scheme, the Childcare Support Act 2018 was signed by the President on Monday, 2nd July. The Act will be underpinned by detailed secondary legislation and formal policy guidelines. Work is currently ongoing on both of these and also on the development of regulations to provide, for the first time, for the registration of school-age childcare services by the Tusla Early Years Inspectorate. These latter regulations will be introduced in advance of the Affordable Childcare Scheme to allow school-age childcare services to register and thereby participate in the scheme from its inception.
With regard to the ICT system to underpin the scheme, my Department has just concluded a full open tender public procurement process and I have awarded a contract for the development of the system. The launch of the scheme is dependent on this ICT system. As such, now that a contractor is in place, my officials are finalising a detailed project plan and I will shortly confirm and communicate a planned start date for the Affordable Childcare Scheme.