Thousands to miss out on new childcare subsidy

9,000 working families will miss out until a new IT system for sharing data can be installed

Thousands to miss out on new childcare subsidy

The Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Katherine Zappone, 03-03-2017. Image: Leah Farrell/RollingNews

It has emerged that thousands of families will miss out on part of a new state childcare subsidy as a result of a delay to the IT system supporting the scheme.

Every family with a child under three-years-old is entitled to a universal payment of €12 per week from September under the government’s €19m Affordable Childcare Scheme which was announced last year.

The payment is for families availing of childcare by a Tusla registered childcare service – and is available to all income levels.

Some 9,000 families are set to miss out however, because there is no system in place for Revenue and the Department of Social Protection to share essential information to administer the payment.

There has also been a delay to legislation needed for Revenue to share information with the Department of Children.

It remains unclear when the problems will be resolved - but Children’s Minister Katherine Zappone has said it will be 2018 at the earliest.

She said families at the higher end of the lower income group – with a combined income of up to €47,500 – will lose out in the meantime.

“Part of the challenge there is the sharing of information between Minister Varadkar’s department – the Department of Social Protection – and also the Revenue Commissioners’ information on income and making that come together in the background in terms of that IT system,” she said.

“We are still working on that and there are lots of issues as well in relation to legislation as well for that.”

Minister Zappone said 70,000 families will benefit from the new scheme from September - hailing the initiative as the “next step towards affordable, accessible quality childcare.”

“Moving from one of the most expensive childcare systems in the world to the best is ambitious,” she said. “It is a journey we will take one step at a time.”

When it gets up and running the government hopes the new IT system will allow for secure information sharing between both government departments, Pobal and the Revenue Commissioners and will ultimately be used to access and administer state childcare supports.

Teresa Heeney, chief executive of Early Childhood Ireland said the administrative delays are “a little disappointing” but added that the charity intends to “work with the relevant bodies to help make sure the scheme becomes a reality.”