If you are concerned about the childcare expenses, you may avail of the advantages of the Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) Scheme. The parents need not pay anything for the year of child care and education services available for stipulated hours from the participating childcare centres.
How are the childcare services paid for? When do parents need to pay for the childcare and education services? How does the scheme operate? Here are a few details that will help you understand the way the scheme provides a free pre school year for eligible children.
How do the childcare centres participating in the ECCE scheme handle the costs associated with their services? The Irish Government pays a capitation fee to the childcare centres participating in the scheme. The scheme operates under the administration of the Childcare Directorate, which is part of the Department of Children and Youth Affairs. The local management is under the supervision of the City/County Childcare Committees.
The capitation fees of the childcare centres participating in the scheme depend on whether they operate on a full/part time or sessional basis. The childcare centres that have appointed highly qualified staff members may receive higher capitation fees from the State.
When can these childcare centres charge parents for their services? The childcare centres participating in the ECCE Scheme may charge the parents for their services in two circumstances:
If the child avails of additional hours of childcare services – The scheme offers stipulated hours of childcare service for eligible children. However, many childcare centres offer additional hours of care. If your child requires these additional hours of care, you may have to pay for these services.
If the child avails of optional activities – The scheme requires the childcare centres to provide age and developmental stage appropriate activities and programmes for children. However, the centres may also provide additional activities as optional choices. If your child participates in these, you may have to pay for these activities.
The childcare centre requires details of the circumstances in which the parents may need to pay beforehand. This is necessary so that the parents can make informed decisions in this regard. Moreover, these optional services cannot be conditions for enrolment, either initial or continued.
Are booking deposits taken by these childcare centres? A nursery or playschool participating in the ECCE scheme may take a booking deposit from the parents. However, this must be limited to four times of the capitation fee for a week.
It is also mandatory that the childcare centres repay the booking deposit to the parents by end of October of the year the child starts going to the childcare centre. The childcare centres may also seek anonymous donations from the parents. However, these donations must not be mandatory.
You may find a childcare centre participating in the scheme from the local City/County Childcare Committees. You may also find such centres from online resources. After you have a list of such centres, you need to visit them in person before selecting one for your child.
Celia Barrymore is an educational consultant and childcare expert. She provides a glance at the way ECCE in Dublin offers a year of free childcare and education for eligible children. If you are looking for a playschool or a Montessori in Dublin that participates in this scheme, she suggests you visit http://www.cocoonchildcare.ie/.