What is the National Childcare Scheme?

The National Childcare Scheme (legally known as the Affordable Childcare Scheme) is a national scheme of financial support for parents towards the cost of their childcare. The
Scheme includes two types of subsidies towards the cost of quality childcare:

1) a universal subsidy is payable for children between the ages of 24 weeks and 36 months who are using childcare services with an approved childcare service provider. It is also
payable for a child who is older than 36 months but does not yet qualify for the Early Childhood Care and Education programme. The universal subsidy is not means-tested and
is available to all qualifying families of any income level.

2) an income-related subsidy is payable for children from 24 weeks to 15 years of age who are using childcare services with an approved childcare service provider. The level of subsidy is
determined by the family’s reckonable income (i.e. gross income minus tax and other deductibles and minus any applicable multiple child discount- see chapter 4). The incomerelated subsidy is payable for qualifying families where the family’s annual reckonable income is up to a maximum of €60,000.

A person can apply for the subsidy online at www.ncs.gov.ie or by post. Where they qualify, they will be provided with a unique code, called a CHICK (Childcare Identifier Code Key) which
they can take to any registered childcare service provider participating in the Scheme. Once the parent and the provider have agreed the hours of childcare required, the provider will
register the code on the Scheme’s online system in order to redeem the subsidy. As part of redeeming the subsidy, the provider will enter the hours of childcare to be subsidised. The
parent will be asked to confirm these hours and the subsidy can then be directly paid to the provider on the parent’s behalf.

To download a copy of the NCS Guidelines please click on the link: NCS-Policy-Guidelines-2

The National Childcare Scheme is our pathway to accessible, affordable, quality Early Learning and Care and School Age Childcare.

The Early Years Hive  is the dedicated early years programme portal for service providers.

If you are new to the Hive, please see information below regarding the on-boarding section. Otherwise, sign in at https://earlyyearshive.ncs.gov.ie/ using your registered email address and password.

If you need assistance, check out the Resources section of the Hive. You can also call the Early Years Provider Centre (EYPC) Monday to Friday 8am to 6pm at 01 511 7222.

Starting the on-boarding Proceess

Before you can start using the Early Years Hive, you are required go through a quick on-boarding process.

In order to complete this process and create your account, you will be asked to enter the following information:

  • Organisational details
  • Service provider details
  • Tusla registered number

You must also upload a valid copy of ID to verify who you are. Accepted forms of identification include:

  • Passport
  • Driving Licence
  • PSC card
  • National identity Card for EU/EEA/Swiss citizens.

If you have all the required information and are ready to proceed, please read the below Data Protection statement at https://earlyyearshive.ncs.gov.ie/OnboardingProcess/. You will then be asked to accept the terms and conditions when you log into the system.

NCS sponsor details.

Part of the National Childcare Scheme details five statutory bodies which can refer a child for a fully funded childcare place. This means that the parent(s)/carer(s) of a sponsored child will pay no fees to the childcare provider and no income assessment is required.

The five sponsor bodies are:

  • Minister for Education & Skills
  • Minister for Justice & Equality
  • Child & Family Agency
  • Health Service Executive
  • Local Authorities.

Each sponsor has an agreement with the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth as to the grounds for making a referral, the hours that may be referred and rates per hour to be paid to the provider.

To refer a child, the referral officer on behalf of the sponsor, completes a sponsor referral form. The referral form may be posted directly to Pobal or given to the parent to submit as a scanned copy through the parent portal.

Once received by Pobal, it is converted to a sponsor application by our staff and processed the same day. The result is a sponsor CHICK (Child Identifier Code Key) that is used to register the child in the usual way, depending on availability of a place at a parent/carer chosen service. Referrals may be marked ‘urgent’ and Pobal can facilitate cases where a child registration is urgently needed. In sponsor cases the parent is not required to approve the registration, and payment will follow in the next weekly payment run.

If you have any queries, please go to our contact us page that can be found here.

Please find below some useful downloads for the NCS section

NCS Agreement and Policy Guidelines

Attendance Tracker

Quick Guides

Service Provider-Parent Agreement

Exemption Forms


TCAN Template

Force Majeure

The current Policy Guidelines for NCS can be found here.


NCS Compliance Checklist 2022 2023 FINAL

NCS is administered on the Early Years Hive portal and all Programme Readiness tasks must be completed on the Hive. Please see the below guides available in the Help & Support section of the Hive for guidance:

Once you complete the above tasks, you are now ready to activate the funding agreement for NCS.  NCS Funding Agreement 2022-23

Service Providers must be on-boarded on the Hive in order to complete these readiness tasks. If you are new to Hive and looking to on-board your service, please see the on-boarding page of Hive for more information.


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