THERE HAS BEEN a huge upturn in the number of children signing up to childcare schemes aimed at the less well-off, according to Children’s Minister Katherine Zappone.
An extra 2,500 children are now getting support – bringing the numbers up to more than 30,000.
Just 500 children were signed up for the same period last year.
The jump is being attributed to a national information campaign ahead of childcare changes starting in September.
From September, a new universal childcare subsidy of up to €1,040 per year will kick in for children aged between 6-months and three-years who have not started their free pre-school year.
Targeted childcare subsidies of up to €145 per week for lower-income families will also increase.
Zappone has a dedicated website (affordablechildcare.ie) for parents and providers to find out about the new regime.
While some elements of the campaign have been criticised, by childcare providers especially, it’s been broadly welcomed for providing parties with “critical information”.
The minister added that more than 4,500 childcare services have been in touch with her department to get involved in the initiative.
Two in every three services that have already signed annual childcare contracts have signed up to deliver the new childcare supports.
Childcare providers in rural areas are signing up for the government’s new subsidy scheme at fast rate, said the minister.
The sign-up rate for childcare services in Roscommon, Donegal, Sligo, Kerry, Galway, Carlow and Leitrim averaged 75%.
Writing for TheJournal.ie in May, the minister said she is determined to get more funding for the roll-out of childcare in Ireland.
Announcing the increase in figures today, Zappone said she was pleased dedicated providers who offer childcare were getting behind the government’s efforts.
“As minister I am mindful of the difficulties in the sector and remain fully committed to secure funding aimed at improving quality in Budget 2018,” she said.