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ECCE Scheme

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs - Barry Andrews, from the Department of Health and Children will explain the scheme.

Parents have to register their children for the scheme by Wed. 20th January (extended from 13th Jan. due to the weather). Get to your local centre, childcare committee - from Pobail or and a full list there, or your local authority has a link too.

What does ECCE stand for?
The Early Child Care and Education scheme

What does the scheme replace?
It is a completely new scheme. The Early Childhood Supplement was withdrawn at the end of 2009 because of government cutbacks - cost the government €231m last year. The government decided to reduce the supplement funding and provide 1 free pre-school year instead, which they project will cost €170m instead. It will be an ongoing scheme for evermore so that children from all backgrounds will start school at the same level. Up to now disadvantaged kids didn't have the same chance to have this opportunity and now they have the chance to be on the same level entering school, as other children who have had pre-schooling.

Is there still time for parents to sign their children up for the scheme?
Wednesday the 13th was meant to be the last day for parents to register for the ECCE scheme, but due to the bad weather last week, the reference week is now next Wednesday 20th for parents to register.

Parents should go to their local service and ask if there is a place for their child, then enrol them. They will need the PPS number and evidence of the child's PPS (e.g. from a card for chemist). Or bring a birth cert for the child to the service. The service just needs to know the child is in the correct age range.

What age does the child need to be in order to be eligible for the scheme?
The child needs to be within an age range of 15 months - this means about 70,000 children in Ireland are eligible. Yet probably only about 50-60,000 will realistically sign up.

Age Range: 3 years 3mths to 4years 6 months, so this will capture 4.1/4 and 5 ½ year old school starters. But they will interpret that generously.

Are there exceptions?
Yes they will consider children outside that range
So if you're a day over 4 years 2months, then they will interpret 2 Feb 2005-30 June 2006 as being within the age range, 2 days short of 17mth period.
Any child who hasn't hit 4 years 7 months then are fine (i.e. 4years 7months minus one day) or from 3years 2months plus one or more day(s).

Tell us about the options available to parents
Creche - used by working parents 8-6pm / part time and full time options
Playschool or the Sessional - up to 3.5 hours, tends to be 3 to 3.5hours e.g. 9am-12midday

The Day Care (crèche service, where parent is working) Model, where some parents will have their kids in day care crèches will get 2 ¼ hours free a day over 50 weeks (closed 2 weeks at Christmas). The parent will get a reduction in their childcare fee of €48.50 =€2450 total. Parents normally pay between €160-200€p.w. for childcare, so if the service is happy to take their kids for only 2 ¼ hours a day then that is fine. If they can get full time children they will probably choose them first as they'll get more € from them.

The Playschool Model is the 2nd model of this scheme. 183days a year for 38 weeks, the parent puts the child into playschool for 3 hours and then collects capitations of €2450p.a. or 38weeks at €64.50 per week. This amounts to the same amount of hours per annum as the Day Care/Creche Model, but means a longer day over a shorter number of weeks. The scheme is trying to fit with the reality on the ground. The parent will be paying nothing, for the 3 hours. If the parent wants to put the child in for 3.5hours then they have to pay the service a little extra out of their own pocket.

How much does the subsidy amount to? €2450 or €2850 per child per annum, totalling €170m approximately to the government in cost.

Is the facilitator paid directly by the department?
The capitation fee is what the OMYCA pays to the childcare provider services directly, a term in advance. Then the service will provide this care free to the parents. There is a higher fee payable to some services that have very highly trained staff - as there are new requirements for staff. Pre-school leaders have to have up to FETAC level 5, normally 1 leader and 1 assistant working with 20 children. 1:1. if you have 10 children have to have 1 leader and if you want an extra assistant. The service gets €2850 a higher capitation fee, if the pre-school leader has a degree.

The scheme has to be provided free, the service can't insist on there not being an extra charge. Each service has to give a fee policy so that OMCYA can monitor the scheme. Pobail assist the OMYCA in monitoring this, they are the presence on the ground, for quality control etc.

Where will parents find a list of registered childcare facilities in their area?
About 4000 childcare services are available across the country and there are 33 county childcare committees for childcare facilities around the country. You will get a list on of all the services in contract to the OMCYA and by county. It is better to call your local childcare committee for the best detail. About 85% of services have joined, as for the others, why have they not joined? Maybe they are at the top end of the market, or their staff aren't qualified or maybe they will join in September.

Do you feel that kids are at a disadvantage if they don't avail of pre-school education? (bearing in mind that Montessori education is relatively new in terms of being used as a form of pre-school education in Ireland) She feels this scheme will help get rid of differences in advantage for kids from less well off backgrounds. This means every parent will be able to get a place for their child no matter their background. Before it went into parents' pockets, the new measure is more formal targeting - directly linked to children

How many people have already signed up for the scheme?
There has been a very high take up by the services - approx 85% of services have signed up.
The return of parents will come next week when the returns are made. They expect the parents of approximately 50,000 out of the 70,000 kids in the range to apply.

Are there adequate childcare facilities to cover the demand across the country?
Yes absolutely, there is plenty of capacity out there.

What if parents miss this 20th January 2010 deadline?
The OMCYA wrote to every child in the qualifying age group last July and every childcare committee around the country has being holding information sessions.
If parents do miss this deadline, they can apply for the April -end June term.

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