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Speech of An Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, at the Launch of the National Childcare Scheme

Check Against Delivery 

Minister, ladies and gentlemen. Good morning.

The new National Childcare Scheme is about giving our children the best start in life.   It’s an investment in making life easier for families, better outcomes for children, and helping to make Ireland one of the best countries in which to grow up and raise a family.

Families with young children have a lot of pressures – and among these is access to quality childcare that is affordable.  

I am not a parent but I know from talking to my sisters, and my friends who have children how expensive the cost of childcare is.  

The cost of childcare can be a barrier to parents who want to return to work.  It prevents people from staying in the workforce.   And it can be an obstacle to parents who want to take up education and training.

With the National Childcare Scheme we are changing this.  We are providing universal and income-linked subsidies for families with children aged between 24 weeks and 15 years of age who are using Tusla registered childcare.

The Scheme increases the number of families who can access financial assistance.  Many families will, for the first time, be entitled to subsidies.  Many others will see increases in their subsidies.

This Scheme provides the first ever statutory entitlement to financial support for childcare.  Since going live online three weeks ago almost 12,000 applications, have already been successfully submitted.  

We want quality services for children and we want them to be sustainable.   So much is shaped by those first few years of life.

As a government our mission over the past two-and-a-half years has been to develop better work-life balance, for example, bringing in better parental leave, paternity benefit, paid parental leave and early childhood education (pre-school).

As we all know correcting decades of under-investment will take some time, but it is happening.  Next year we will spend €624m on childcare.

Today over 175,000 children across our country are benefitting from government childcare initiatives.

In the last three years we have introduced a universal subsidy for children aged from 6 months to 3 years of €1,040 per year and a targeted subsidy for children aged from 6 months to 15 years of up to €145 per week.  

We have also extended free pre-school for 3 year olds up to school age.  There has been a 96% take up rate this year and 107,000 children have benefitted.

The Government is determined to improve outcomes for children, support lifelong learning, reduce child poverty and tangibly reduce the cost of quality childcare for thousands of families across Ireland.

The National Childcare Scheme extends more financial support to parents.  This scheme is ‘poverty proofed’ and ensures that families at or below the at risk or poverty line will receive the highest subsidies.  

But middle income families should benefit too so we have increased the threshold so that about 45,000 existing families will see an increase in their subsidies, and some families with a gross income of up to €100,000 per year qualifying for the first time.

My thanks to Minister Zappone, Minister Doherty, the Department of Children and Youth Affairs, the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection, and the Revenue Commissioners for working together on this initiative.

This is a great step forward and is something I know future government’s will want to build on.

In the days, weeks, and months ahead we will see the numbers availing of it grow as we build a society that has family at the centre in which nobody feels left out.

Thank you.