Changes to eligibility and parental contributions will increase childcare supports for low-income families making their way into employment
In summary the changes are:
The Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Charlie Flanagan T.D. and the Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection, Joan Burton T.D. have today (08 July 2014) announced that the afterschool childcare (ASCC) programme and the community employment childcare (CEC) programme, will undergo improvements to increase access to the programmes for low income families. The ASCC programme was first introduced in 2013 and is currently available nationally in all Intreo Centres and Social Welfare Offices providing up to 800 subsidised after-school childcare places. The CEC programme was introduced in January of this year and provides 1,800 subsidised childcare places to CE participants. The changes to both programmes are due to become available from Monday 14 July 2014.
The eligibility criteria for the after-school childcare programme is expanding to provide places to recipients of the Jobseeker’s Allowance (JA), Jobseeker’s Benefit (JB) and One-Parent Family payments (OFP) who participate in a Department of Social Protection employment programme. To date the ASCC programme primarily provided support for those entering employment. This enhancement will provide eligible customers with the choice to avail of after-school childcare support while on an employment programme, when entering or increasing their employment or a combination of both. In addition OFP customers will now receive the same level of support under the programme as those in receipt of a Jobseeker’s payment i.e. they can avail of this support if they take-up part-time work or an employment programme, and still retain part of their OFP payment. Previously OFP recipients were only eligible if they left the payment to take-up employment. These changes will result in more customers meeting the eligibility criteria for the ASCC programme.
In addition a new option is being made available to provide subsidised after-school childcare places, with a pick-up service, at no additional cost to the customer. The additional cost of these places will be funded by the Department through an increased subsidy to the childcare provider. The provision of a pick-up service was identified by customers and providers as a valuable addition to the ASCC programme.
Customers who are participating in Community Employment (CE) schemes will now also receive full support for children in primary school, under the newly named CE childcare (CEC) programme (previously known as the CE Childcare Education and Training Support (CE CETS Programme)). This programme was introduced in Budget 2014 and is expanding to provide subsidised childcare places for CE participants with primary school children aged up to 13 years of age. This is an increase from the current age limit of 5 years. As a result of this change CE participants will no longer require access to the after-school childcare programme as their childcare needs will now be met under one scheme. CE participants already on the ASCC programme will not be affected.
In order to further achieve better coherence between these childcare supports the parental contribution for the ASCC programme is reducing from €20 per week per child to €15 to bring it in line with the current parental contribution on the CEC programme of €15. This makes the programme more accessible to low income families.
Minister Flanagan said: “Over the past few years my department has added to our childcare support programmes to assist parents in low income families return to employment. I am delighted that we have been able to work with the Department of Social Protection to support these changes to ensure that the programmes are more accessible and equitable for those eligible to avail of them. Supporting parents to return to employment is a key focus for this Government and I am committed to ensuring my department can play its role in this.”
The Tánaiste said: “Getting people back to work is the Government’s number one priority, because all the evidence shows that having a fairly-paid and secure job is the best protection against poverty, and we want to help low income families gain a firm foothold in work and build a better future for themselves and their families. Childcare is a crucial element for families returning to work, or embarking on employment programmes, and these changes are aimed at ensuring that they will get the childcare supports they need to do exactly that. My Department will continue to work closely with the Department of Children and Youth Affairs to further expand childcare services and supports.”
The afterschool childcare programme will continue to operate as currently where customers who meet the criteria get a letter of eligibility from their local Intreo Centre/Social Welfare Office. They are then referred to their nearest County Childcare Committee (CCC) who connects them with the relevant providers. The CE childcare programme will also continue to operate as currently where the CE sponsor provides a letter to the customer that they can take to their nearest CCC who will then arrange the childcare places.