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Oct. 13, 2016, 12:16 a.m.
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Childcare providers have warned they may not be able to create the thousands of extra places likely to be required for children next September under the ambitious plans announced in the budget.
The affordable childcare scheme introduced by Minister for Children Katherine Zappone is expected to result in many more families seeking places for their children.
Teresa Heeney, chief executive at Early Childhood Ireland, which has 3,500 members providing childcare, said while aspects of the new scheme were welcome, it was difficult to see how the system would cope with the extra demand.
An expanded service was dependent on the availability of qualified staff, she said. But it was almost impossible to recruit new staff because providers could only afford to pay €10-€12 an hour, compared with about €40 an hour for teachers.
Details remain unclear about the precise number of extra places that will be required. Nor is there clarity on the number of vacant places existing.
Due to begin in September 2017, it will provide means-tested subsidies to families with net household incomes of up to €47,500. There will also be a universal subsidy of up to €80 a month for children aged six months to three years who are in childcare for up to 40 hours a week.
The Department of Children said 79,000 children would benefit from the scheme next year, rising to 90,000 in 2018. Of those benefiting next year, 25,000 would be covered by the universal scheme and 54,000 by the targeted subsidy. Some 22,500 would be “new beneficiaries”, according to the department.
It was not able to say how many of the new beneficiaries were already in childcare and how many new places would be needed. At a press briefing on Tuesday, a department official said most of the new entrants would be accommodated by existing providers.
However, Tusla said last night it did not have information on vacant places within registered services.