A new funding model for childcare services was launched today, a key element of which is that signed up service providers are not be allowed to increase their fees above what parents paid last year.
'Together for Better' is the new funding model for Early Learning and Care (ELC) and School Age Childcare (SAC).
In addition to the Early Childhood Care and Education programme and the National Childcare Scheme, the new model includes a €221 million Core Funding scheme.
Nine out of ten ELC and SAC providers - almost 4,000 services - have now signed contracts for Core Funding.
Core Funding guarantees that fees paid by parents to Core Funding Partner Services will not increase above what was charged last year.
A service that increases a charge for something that was provided on 30 September 2021 will be in breach of the rules.
In addition, anything that had been "folded into" the 30 September 2021 fee cannot now be charged for individually; for example if meals were included in the fee, they cannot now be charged separately.
It is intended to give more certainty to parents and to ensure that the extension of the universal subsidy to children of all ages which came into effect in August, for example, will not be absorbed by increased parental fees.
Launching the new funding model, Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth Roderic O'Gorman said it would see "a freeze in childcare fees for 200,000 families around the country and improved pay and conditions for 25,000 childcare workers".
The department has said that the vast majority of services will see an increase in funding as a result of the model, and a very small proportion of services will see no change.
It said that "no service will see a decrease in funding. For any service that does experience financial difficulties, a Sustainability Fund will be in place. This new strand of the Sustainability Fund, linked to Core Funding, will be designed to provide an extra safety net for providers. This will be open to both private and community providers."
In addition, Employment Regulation Orders for the sector commence today.
The department has said that these "will mean improved pay for over 70% of workers in the sector, with specific recognition for different roles and qualifications, establishing a wage structure for staff".