UNI­VER­SAL SUB­SIDY

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - Business & Appointments - - FRONT PAGE -

The uni­ver­sal sub­sidy is avail­able to all par­ents who have chil­dren be­tween the ages of six months and three years in child­care — as long as the child­care provider is reg­is­tered with the child and fam­ily agency, Tusla and has signed up to Zap­pone’s af­ford­able child­care scheme. (You may be able to get the sub­sidy if your child is older than three and has not yet started their free preschool year un­der the ECCE scheme).

The uni­ver­sal sub­sidy is worth up to €1,040 a year and is not means-tested. The sub­sidy is worth up to €20 a week (or €4 a day) if your child is in full-time care; €10 a week (or €2 a day) for part-time care; €7 weekly (or €1.40 a day) for ses­sional care; and €3.50 a week (or 70c a day) for half-ses­sional care. Un­der the scheme, full-time care is de­fined as five or more hours of care a day; part-time care is be­tween three-and-a-half and five hours of care a day; ses­sional care is be­tween two-and-a-quar­ter and three-and-a-half hours of care a day; and half-ses­sional care is up to twoand-a-quar­ter hours of care a day.

To ap­ply for the uni­ver­sal sub­sidy, first check if your child­care provider is of­fer­ing it. Should your provider of­fer the sub­sidy, you must then give it your Per­sonal Public Ser­vice Num­ber (PSSN) and date of birth — as well as those of your child. Once you get ap­proved and reg­is­tered for the uni­ver­sal sub­sidy, the pay­ment should be re­ceived by your provider (and then passed onto you) within two weeks — and ev­ery two weeks there­after. You will not re­ceive the sub­sidy di­rectly — in­stead, it will be paid to your child­care provider and de­ducted from the cost of your child­care.

Al­though most of the child­care providers reg­is­tered with Tusla have signed up to Zap­pone’s af­ford­able child­care scheme, your provider may not have done so — and you will not be able to get the uni­ver­sal sub­sidy if this is the case. You could con­sider chang­ing to a child­care provider that has signed up to the scheme if this arises. with or in­spected by Tusla.) The Depart­ment of Chil­dren and Youth Af­fairs is ex­plor­ing ways to get more child­min­ders cov­ered by the scheme but it could be a year (or more) be­fore a sys­tem is in place which will al­low par­ents to claim if they have hired a child­min­der. is in full-time care. Should you have al­ready been re­ceiv­ing sub­si­dies un­der ei­ther of these schemes and still be el­i­gi­ble for them, you must re-regis­ter with your child­care provider. The new sub­sidy rates will then be ap­plied au­to­mat­i­cally.

Should you have never re­ceived — or ap­plied for — sub­si­dies un­der these schemes, check if you are el­i­gi­ble for them. You may qual­ify for the sub­si­dies if you are a par­ent or guardian who holds a GP visit card (apart from the un­der 6 GP visit cards) or a med­i­cal card; who is on a low in­come or is in re­ceipt of so­cial wel­fare; or who is in school, fur­ther ed­u­ca­tion or job train­ing.

Be aware that it will take time to fig­ure out your en­ti­tle­ment (if any) to the means-tested sub­si­dies. “It’s tak­ing be­tween 25 and 40 min­utes per child to fig­ure out a par­ent’s en­ti­tle­ment to the means-tested sub­si­dies,” said Frances Byrne, di­rec­tor of pol­icy and ed­u­ca­tion at Early Child­hood Ire­land. “The GP visit card [for over 6’s] is be­ing used as the bot­tom line for this means test. There are a lot of peo­ple on low-to-mid­dle in­comes who are en­ti­tled to a GP visit card — but who have no idea that they are.”

When as­sess­ing your el­i­gi­bil­ity for the GP visit card, al­lowances are made for child­care costs and rent or mort­gage pay­ments, as well as for weekly travel costs to work. To en­sure your ap­pli­ca­tion for a means-tested sub­sidy runs smoothly, give your child­care provider all the nec­es­sary doc­u­ments (such as your med­i­cal card and PPSN card) to sup­port your ap­pli­ca­tion. “This is par­tic­u­larly the case if your child­care provider doesn’t know you — or you are get­ting child­care from the provider for the first time,” said Byrne. Af­ford­able Child­care Scheme come into play — though, it could take longer.

The new sub­si­dies will be avail­able to par­ents who have chil­dren un­der the age of 15 in child­care. The max­i­mum sub­sidy, which will be €5.11 an hour, will be avail­able to el­i­gi­ble par­ents with a child be­tween the age of six months and one year. As you will be able to get sub­si­dies for up to 40 hours of care a week, this scheme will knock about €10,000 a year off the child­care bills of some par­ents. The min­i­mum sub­sidy is €3.76 an hour.

You will qual­ify for the max­i­mum sub­sidy if your fam­ily’s net in­come is €22,700 or less. How­ever, once your fam­ily’s net in­come goes over €22,700, the rate of sub­sidy you’re en­ti­tled to starts to fall in line with what you earn. The most your fam­ily can earn and still qual­ify for a means-tested sub­sidy (al­beit a small one) is €80,000 gross in­come — or €57,134 in net in­come.

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