The Irish government announced, on 7 April 2009, a grant for pre-school service providers offering Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE). Pre-school service providers notified to the Health and Security Executive or services registered with the Irish Montessori Educational Board (IMEB) will have the option to take up a government grant for this purpose. Children will be eligible if they are aged between 3 years 3 months and 4 years 6 months on the 1st of September each year. The service will be available to all parents subject to local availability and is expected to benefit some 70,000 children. The move marks a shift in the Irish government’s policy away from providing financial assistance (via the Early Childcare Supplement, which will be abolished in December 2009) towards providing services.
Those wanting to take part in the scheme can apply either as a playschool sessional service (offering under 3.5 hours per morning and afternoon session) or as a full (over five hours per day) or part-time (between 3.5 and 5 hours per day) daycare service.
Playschool sessional services in the scheme - offering three hours a day, 5 days a week for 38 weeks of the year - will receive a grant based on €64.50 per child a week for providing a free pre-school service. Full-time or part-time services operating on a 50 week a year basis will be able to provide 2hrs 15min a day free pre-school for eligible children, and they will receive a grant based on €48.50 per child per week for this.
Parents will benefit through a reduction in their childcare costs of this amount but will pay for the remaining hours of childcare. Pre-school services may charge parents for optional additions (e.g. one-off or on-going activities or services such as outings, birthday parties, specific teaching resources such as dance or music, and food) provided that parents are informed that their agreement to additional hours or to any optional charge is not compulsory. The deadline for applications to be sent to the local City or County Childcare Committee is 10 July 2010 and a contract with the Office for the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (OMCYA) must be in place by 25 September 2010.