For Oral Answer on : 04/07/2023
Question Number(s): 118 Question Reference(s): 32400/23
Department: Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth
Asked by: David Stanton T.D.
To ask the Minister for Children; Equality; Disability; Integration and Youth if he has examined ways of reducing the level of bureaucracy associated with the National Childcare Scheme for both families and childcare service providers; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
Given the large amount of public money that is used in funding the National Childcare Scheme (NCS), there needs to be an appropriate level of oversight and accountability. Ensuring that this money is properly accounted for and that as many children as possible benefit from it is a key responsibility of my Department. This creates a certain level of administrative burden.
That said, my Department are taking meaningful steps to reduce the administrative burden placed on both parents, and early learning and childcare providers, where possible.
My Department has recently concluded a series of meetings with a subgroup of the Early Learning and Childcare Stakeholder Forum (ELCSF). The subgroup, which was largely comprised of provider representatives, was convened to identify potential enhancements that would assist providers in administering the NCS.
My Department is working on a series of enhancements for 2023, taking into account the feedback of this subgroup. This includes two important developments for Programme Year 2023/24, specifically providers will only have to complete one online Fee Table and one Parent Statement per family.
The Parent Statement, which is closely based on the document introduced last year under Core Funding, must be co-signed by the provider and parent/guardian of each family in the service, and kept on file. For services participating in more than one DCEDIY scheme, this will noticeably reduce administration by taking the place of:
- The ECCE Services Fee Information Letter
- The CCSP Saver Programme Service Fees Information Letter
- The Parental Agreement for NCS
- The Parent Statement for Core Funding
This is a substantial improvement in recognition of the feedback put forward by providers, particularly in relation to the NCS, as there will be no need to issue or sign a new Parent Statement if there is an increase in a family’s subsidy or rate. It is anticipated that this will reduce the administrative burden associated with rate changes on both parents and providers.
In tandem, Pobal will be working on the performance of the HIVE to increase performance and access at busy times for providers such as on-boarding and ECCE programme registrations.
Finally, I would note that all schemes are kept under review and the process of conducting an independent evaluation of the NCS will begin at the end of 2023 which amongst other things will look at ways to enhance the NCS including through a reduction in administrative burden for parents and providers.