Homeless children to get 25 hours of free childcare a week

The plan will also include 15 hours of free pre-school, where eligible

Homeless children to get 25 hours of free childcare a week

Children's Minister Katherine Zappone at Governemnt Buildings in Dublin | Image: Rollingnews.ie

A new subvention scheme by the Children's Minister Dr Katherine Zappone will see homeless children entitled to free childcare.

Those aged 0-5 years whose parents are homeless will be offered free childcare for 25-hours a week.

Families registered as homeless in the Dublin region are to benefit from next month, with funding of €8.25m being made available.

The Department of Children and Youth Affairs say other areas are also expected to follow.

Some 85% of children listed as homeless are in the Dublin area. The scheme will start in January.

Children will be eligible for 25 hours per week, which will include 15 hours of free pre-school (ECCE) where they are eligible for this, or school hours.

School children can avail of this free childcare outside of term time. The free childcare will be available for 50 weeks of the year.

Contracted childcare services will be provided with a flat rate of €110 per week, per child for these part-time children. While parents will not be asked to pay any top-up or co-payment for these part-time hours.

Making the announcement, Minister Zappone said: "This is an important initiative targeting a particularly vulnerable group of children who need additional supports given their situation.

"The provision of up to 25 hours of free childcare a week to include a daily meal will lift a huge burden from families.

"The scheme is also designed to help those transitioning from homelessness to permanent accommodation."

Focus Ireland is to work with the department to identify eligible families.

While the Dublin-based City and County Childcare Committees will encourage relevant childcare providers to engage with the scheme.

Catherine Maher, national director of services at Focus Ireland, said: "Early childhood supports are important for most families, but they are particularly important for children struggling with the fact that their families are currently homeless.

"We warmly welcome Minister Zappone's recognition of this problem, and her rapid action in addressing it, leading to the new initiative she is announcing today."