National Childcare Scheme FAQs
The National Childcare Scheme aims to improve children’s outcomes, support lifelong learning, make work pay, reduce child poverty and tangibly reduce the cost of quality childcare for thousands of families across Ireland.
What is the National Childcare Scheme?
The National Childcare Scheme provides subsidies to help parents meet the cost of quality Early Learning and Care and School Age Childcare. It will replace all previous targeted childcare support programmes with a single, streamlined and user friendly Scheme.
Under the National Childcare Scheme, subsidies are available for families with children aged between 24 weeks and 15 years who are attending any participating Tusla registered childcare service, including any Tusla registered childminder and school age childcare services.
What subsidies are available under the National Childcare Scheme?
There are two types of subsidies available under the National Childcare Scheme: a Universal subsidy and an Income Assessed subsidy.
What is a Universal subsidy?
Universal subsidies are available to all families with children under 3 years, or families with children over 3 years who have not yet qualified for the free preschool (ECCE) programme. It is not means tested and provides 50 cents per hour for up to 45 hours per week off the cost of a Tusla registered childcare place.
When did the National Childcare Scheme open?
Online applications for the National Childcare Scheme opened in November 2019.
A paper based, postal application then became available in March 2020.
What is an Income Assessed subsidy?
Income Assessed subsidies are available to families with children aged between 24 weeks and 15 years. They are means tested and will be calculated based on your individual circumstances. The subsidy rate will vary depending on your level of reckonable family income, your child’s age and their educational stage. It can be used towards the cost of a Tusla registered childcare place for up to a maximum of 45 hours per week.
To apply for an Income Assessed subsidy, your reckonable family income has to be less than €60,000 per year.
What happens to the previous childcare support programmes?
The NCS was introduced to replace all of the previous legacy schemes. The NCS provides for a limited transition period for those previously benefitting from legacy schemes.
The existing “saver” arrangement was extended, to ensure that no one loses out in the initial transition to the new Scheme. Additional funding was secured to extend the savers beyond August 2020. This means that persons who were registered on the CCS or TEC schemes before they closed and who retain their eligibility will be able to remain on them indefinitely for example until they no longer require Early Learning and Care and School-Age childcare.
This is a limited measure, and once these remaining entitlements are concluded, the NCS will replace these legacy scheme entitlements as has always been intended.
No new applications can be made under the legacy schemes.
If you have any questions regarding the existing programmes you can email firstname.lastname@example.org or contact TCCC on 062-64200
How do I apply?
You can apply online on this website using a verified MyGovID by clicking on the ‘Sign In’ tab at the top of the screen. If you need help with the application process you can read the Application Form Guide on ncs.gov.ie or you can contact the NCS Parent Support Centre on 01 906 8530 open Monday to Friday from 9am – 5pm.
Does the National Childcare Scheme replace the free preschool programme?
No, the free preschool programme (also known as ECCE- the Early Childhood Care and Education programme) will not be affected by the National Childcare Scheme. Instead, the National Childcare Scheme will offer ‘wrap-around’ care for families, providing financial support towards the cost of care for hours spent outside of preschool or school.
What is wrap-around care?
When you receive your subsidy award, the weekly hours available will include any time your child spends in preschool or school.
Your subsidy can then be used for the hours of care spent outside of school or preschool, for example:
- childcare used before preschool or school starts in the morning
- after-school childcare
- childcare used outside of preschool or school term times
This is known as wrap-around care.
What happens when my child is not in school or preschool?
The weekly hours available will increase to the maximum amount you were awarded during any non-term time, such as school holidays or mid-term breaks.
The table below shows the wrap-around hours available for each educational stage:
|Childs Educational Stage
|Term Time Hours
|Non-Term Time Hours
|Junior to Senior Infants
|1st to 6th Class
|Post Primary School up to 15 years old
If your child is in preschool or school and you are awarded 15 hours of subsidised care per week, you can only use these hours for non-term time childcare. If your child is in preschool and you receive a standard hours award of 20 hours of subsidised care per week, you can only use 5 hours in term time and the full 20 for non-term time childcare.
If your child is in school and you receive a standard hours award of 20 hours of subsidised care per week you can only use these hours for non-term childcare.
Can you give me an example of wrap-around care?
Siobhan and Jack have 2 children; 2 year old Bobby and 5 year old Nora. Siobhan is working full time and Jack is studying for a Level 8 award on the National Framework of Qualifications.
They have a gross family income of €64,000 per year. Under the Scheme, their reckonable family income is €43,200. This is calculated by taking their gross income and subtracting their tax, PRSI and USC, as well as a €4,300 Multiple Child Discount (as they have two children under 15 in the family).
As they are both working and studying, they qualify for the maximum hours of subsidised childcare per week for both children. For Bobby, this is 45 hours a week. Bobby’s subsidy rate is €2.40 per hour, which amounts to €108 per week for 52 weeks.
Nora’s subsidy rate is €1.85 per hour. For the 36 weeks she spends in school during the year, Nora’s subsidy can be applied for up to 23 hours per week, which is the time she spends in her afterschool club. This amounts to €42.55 per week for 36 weeks. For the 16 weeks of non-term time (her school holidays) Nora’s subsidy can be applied for up to 45 hours of childcare per week, which amounts to €83.25 for 16 weeks.
Applying Bobby and Nora’s subsidies to all of the hours they spend in childcare over the year, Siobhan and Jack could receive a total of €8599.80 off their childcare costs.
Which type of subsidy can I apply for?
You can choose which type of subsidy to apply for based on your own family circumstances.
All families with children under 3 in registered childcare can apply for the Universal subsidy. Families with children who are over 3 and have not yet qualified for the free preschool (ECCE) programme can also apply. This subsidy is not means tested, and provides up to €22.50 per week, or €1,170 per year, off the cost of a registered childcare place.
Families with children aged between 24 weeks and 15 years who are attending registered childcare and who have a reckonable income of less than €60,000 can apply for an Income Assessed subsidy. Subsidy rates will be tailored based your individual circumstances, such as your reckonable family income, your child’s age and their educational stage.
Will I have to be working to receive a subsidy?
No, you can apply for either a Universal or Income Assessed subsidy if you are not working. The number of subsidised hours available to you each week will depend on whether you (and your partner if you have one) are working, studying or training.
If you (and your partner, if you have one) are working, studying or training you can get up to 45 hours of subsidised childcare per week.
If you (or your partner, if you have one) are not working, studying or training you can get up to 20 hours of subsidised childcare per week.
Under the Scheme, ‘work’ includes any part-time hours, casual working arrangements and labour activation schemes such as the Gateway and SOLAS programmes. All courses with awards on the National Framework of Qualifications (NFQ) are covered under the studying or training requirement. There are no minimum hour requirements for either working or studying.
In relation to information on Further Education and Training (FET), FET offers a wide variety of life-long education options to anyone over 16. FET includes apprenticeships, traineeships, Post Leaving Cert (PLC) courses, community and adult education as well as core literacy and numeracy services. FET courses are provided through the Education and Training Board network nationwide as well as through other local providers including online through SOLAS’ eCollege. FET courses are provided at levels one to six on the NFQ.
What is reckonable income?
Reckonable income is the income that will be assessed when you apply. It is calculated by taking your net family income and deducting any allowable items under the Scheme, such as the Multiple Child Discount.
It is your family income, including DEASP payments, after tax, PRSI, USC, and any allowable items under the Scheme have been deducted. More information on deductions can be foud on ncs.gov.ie
What does ‘family income’ mean?
‘Family income’ is used to describe the total income that will be assessed when you apply for an Income Assessed subsidy.
If you are a lone parent, only your reckonable income will be calculated and assessed. This includes circumstances where you are a lone parent but living with another adult who is not your partner, such as your parent or relative.
If you have a partner who is living with you (such as a spouse, civil partner or co-habitant) it will be your combined reckonable income. Your partner’s income will be included even if they are not your child’s parent or guardian. If your partner is living apart from you temporarily, such as for work or study reasons, their income will still be included.
How will I receive my subsidy?
Your subsidy will be paid directly to your chosen participating childcare provider, once they have registered your child under the Scheme.
When your application has been approved, you will receive your unique CHICK code. Your chosen provider will use this, along with your child’s name and date of birth, to register your subsidised hours of care that you have agreed with them. The hours are agreed based on a combination of what you need and what your provider can offer you.
When your provider has registered the hours, you will receive a notification asking you to confirm that the details entered are correct. Once you send your confirmation, the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth will then pay the subsidy to the provider on your behalf.
Your NCS subsidy can only be paid once your CHICK has been registered by your childcare provider, and you have confirmed on the system that all details are correct.
Can I choose any childcare provider?
The Scheme is open to all childcare providers who are registered with Tusla and who have a National Childcare Scheme contract with the Department of Children and Youth Affairs. This is to ensure that there is a quality assurance system in place for childcare providers participating in the Scheme.
How will I know if my childcare provider is participating in the scheme?
A full list of contracted childcare providers is available on the ncs.gov.ie website. Information is also be available from your local City/County Childcare Committee.