Waterford Childcare Committee Ltd (WCCC) offers a wide range of supports to the early childhood care and education sector, children and parents in Waterford. WCCC is contracted by the Department of Children and Youth Affairs (DCYA), to implement national early childhood care and education policy at a local level. The work involves administration and the provision of information and developmental supports to early year’s services, staff and parents in all area of childcare. Recently a number of policy changes and additional investment in the sector was announced through the Budget 2016, including the expansion of the free preschool programme, accessible pre-school for children with special needs, quality and affordability of services.
Expansion of the Free Pre-School Programme
From September 2016, every child in Ireland will be able to start pre-school at age three, and to remain in pre-school until they start primary school. Children will be able to enrol in pre-school at three different points in the year – September, January and April. On average, children and families will benefit from 23 additional weeks of free pre-school (or about a 60% increase in free pre-school entitlement). This extended provision will reduce parents’ childcare costs by approximately €1,500, on average. In line with this expansion of free pre-school, capitation payments to providers will be rise from €62.50 to €64.50. This initiative will better integrate the educational experience of young children, providing a smoother transition between pre- and primary school. With the expanded preschool programme the demand for childcare places in ECCE is likely to grow from the 1729 children enrolled in 2015/2016 to 2926 children expected to enrol in 2016/2017.
Affordable childcare
The cost of childcare can be a significant barrier for parents wanting to take up work, education or training. Budget 2016 provides initiatives focused on increasing the affordability of childcare;
• A single Affordable Childcare programme: It is planned to develop a single Affordable Childcare programme to provide working families with good quality childcare at a cost they can afford. Work on this programme will begin immediately, so that it can be in place by 2017. This single programme will replace existing targeted measures Community Childcare Subvention (CCS), along with the Training & Employment Childcare (TEC) programmes, comprising After-School Childcare (ASCC), Childcare Education & Training Support (CETS), and Community Employment Childcare (CEC), providing a new simplified subsidy programme, provided through both community/not-for-profit and private childcare providers.
• Community Childcare Subvention: Budget 2016 provided for an additional 8,000 childcare places nationally on the Community Childcare Subvention programme, providing affordable childcare for low income families. The scheme has also been broadened to allow childcare places to be provided through private as well as community/not-for-profit providers.
• After-school care: A number of measures are included to support the development of more after-school childcare options. There will be a capital fund will support childcare providers (both community/not-for-profit and private) who need minor funding to develop after-school services using existing school and other accessible community facilities. Work will also begin on the development of a Quality Framework for After-School provision, along with a consultation with children on their views about after-school childcare.
Accessible pre-school for children with disabilities
During 2016, a suite of supports will be phased in to enable children with disabilities fully participate in, and reap the benefits of, quality pre-school care and education. A new model of supports will be put in place for childcare services which include children with disabilities in their free preschool (ECCE) rooms from September 2016. The new model for which is based on recommendations in the National Interdepartmental report launched in Nov 2015. Childcare services which sign up to a National Inclusion Code of Practice will receive training and support for their Inclusion Coordinator and full staff team on how best to support children with disabilities who are enrolled in their service. The services will receive an extra €2 capitation per child in ECCE and will also be eligible to apply for small grants for appliances and minor alterations; as well as access to therapeutic intervention which will be dependent on the level of disability of the children enrolled. A national website with information for Parents and Childcare Providers is being developed.
Quality Child Care
Funding will continue to be provided, to continue to build on the quality measures for the childcare sector over the coming years. All staff employed will be expected to comply with the new Qualification requirement which will come into effect from 31st Dec 2016. There will be further investment to support Ireland’s childcare sector to move towards the professionalised workforce that characterises high quality childcare systems. There will be an expanded childcare inspection team in place to monitor compliance with new childcare regulations.
ECCE Expansion Capital Fund
Capital funding announced 10th Feb 2016 is specifically for community/not-for-profit and private providers who want to expand their services to cater for more children from September 2016. Applications for funding will be taken from eligible childcare providers in respect of a contribution towards the total project cost or the full cost (up to a maximum of €10,000), for the following:
· Build / fit out / refurbishment of an additional room /extension;
· Minor building alterations; and
· Costs for additional play equipment (to a maximum of €5,000) to facilitate an increase in childcare places.
Waterford Childcare Committee recently hosted the 2nd Consultation Forum providing an opportunity for all interested parties to receive an update and space to discuss the challenges and opportunities moving from national policy to practice at local level. A Consultation Forum Report documenting the outcome of the forum discussion will be published in the coming weeks.
Contact WCCC on: Union Rd, Kilmacthomas Business Centre, Kilmacthomas, Waterford . Tel No: 051-295045 email: info@cccw.ie
website: www.cccw.ie
Facebook: www.facebook.com/Waterford-Childcare-Committee-Ltd