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.

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

From 2 September 2024, the minimum rate for the National Childcare Scheme (NCS) subsidies will increase from €1.40 to €2.14. The increase, which was introduced by Minister Roderic O’Gorman as part of Budget 2024 measures, means that if parents are in receipt of a subsidy which is less than the maximum, they will receive a higher subsidy towards their childcare fees.

There will be no change to the sponsor rate for children aged 0-52 weeks.

The remaining sponsor rates will have the max rate increased to €5.30 as demonstrated below.

Current Max RateNew Max Rate
1 to 2 years€5.00€5.30
3+ years€4.54€5.30
School Age€4.31€5.30

Awards will be recalculated with this new rate and updated accordingly.

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. For more information on sponsorship please click on this link https://earlyyearshive.ncs.gov.ie/how-to-guides/how-to-guides-ncs/sponsors/

NCS CHICK uplift – Budget 2023

From 2 January 2023, the minimum rate for NCS subsidies will increase from €0.50 to €1.40. The increase, which was introduced by Minister Roderic O’Gorman as part of Budget 2023 measures, means that if parents are in receipt of a subsidy which is less than the maximum, they will receive a higher subsidy towards their childcare fees. Awards will be recalculated with this new rate and updated accordingly. This will affect existing claims.

To assist with identifying which NCS claims in your service have been impacted, a new page called ‘Budget 2023 Claims affected’ will be available on the Early Years Hive from 25 November 2022. This page is available under the Registration menu on Hive and will display the claims that will change during the uplift process.

Please note that the uplift process will take up to 10 days from 25 November and not all of the claims will be available on this page from day one.

Click here to download a guide on viewing CHICK uplifts on Hive.

Please find below some useful downloads for the NCS section

About the NCS funding agreement

To participate in the National Childcare Scheme you must:

  1. Have the appropriate Tusla Certification for the service type you offer (for example if you provide both Early Learning and Care (ELC) and School Age Childcare (SAC), must have a valid Tusla registration for both service types)
  2. Enter into a contract with the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth in respect of the National Childcare Scheme.

Funding agreements are for a 12-month period and are renewable. Funding agreements can be activated in August, this process also involves applying for the National Childcare Scheme programme call.

In completing your application, your Tusla registration will be checked and you will input your fees list and service calendar. The contract will then be made available for you to sign electronically.

You can view a copy of the NCS funding agreement in NCS Documents.

How to activate an NCS funding agreement on the Early Years Hive

You must have completed the programme readiness steps in order to activate the funding agreement for NCS.

Please see the Programme Readiness section of Help & Support for guidance on the programme readiness steps.

Once programme readiness is completed, to activate NCS Funding Agreement log into the Early Years Hive portal and go to the All Programme Applications page. You must then complete the below steps on this page:

  • Select the programme call you are applying for (NCS) in the Available Programme Applications section and select Start and then Next.
  • Confirm your service’s Primary Authorised User (PAU) using the checkbox and select Next.
  • Confirm your service’s Organisation Details using the checkbox and select Next.
  • Confirm your service’s Bank Account using the checkbox and select Next.
  • Confirm your service’s Users list using the checkbox and select Next.
  • Confirm the Service Provider Details using the checkbox and select Next.
  • Confirm your service’s TUSLA registration using the checkbox and select Next.
  • Confirm your service’s Service Calendar using the checkbox and select Next.
  • Confirm your service’s Fees List using the checkbox and select Next.
  • Read and accept the Annual Financial Declaration using the checkbox and select Next.
  • Read and confirm the NCS Funding Agreement and select Submit.

Click here to download a Quick Guide on activating a funding agreement

Monitoring and tracking attendance

In line with Tusla requirements, you must maintain daily attendance records for each child, but it is not required to log this information on the Early Years Hive. However, these details do form the basis for the weekly reporting returns made by providers on the Hive.

The below attendance tracker is presented as a tool to support providers. Service providers are not required to use this particular Excel-based tool but it is hoped that they will find it helpful in meeting their obligations with regard to accurate recording of children’s attendance.

The accompanying guidelines will assist providers in using the attendance tracker.

Absence

You must log an absence lasting 4 or more consecutive weeks on the Early Years Hive as part of your weekly returns.

Once you have returned an absence of 4 consecutive weeks, the system will automatically issue a warning notification to both you and the parent stating that the subsidy for the child will be suspended if the absence continues.

You are not required to log an absence of less than 4 consecutive weeks.

If the child has already returned to the service when this warning is issued (during week 5), it may be ignored as there will be no break in subsidy if the absence lasts no longer than 4 weeks.

If the child does not return during week 5, the subsidy will not be payable for any period between the 4 weeks absence ‘allowance period’ and the date of return, unless exceptional circumstances are deemed to apply.

Tip: For your own benefit, it is always better to address absence issues with parents as soon as possible to avoid payments potentially being effected as well as to reduce the administrative work in future returns.

Please see the Returns section of Help & Support for more information on returning under-attendance on the Early Years Hive.

Leavers

When a child leaves your service, you must end-date the claim. Only when the claim is end-dated can the child be registered with a new service.

Payments for a child will cease the day after the child leaves the service (the day following the registered end date).

You will receive confirmation via the Early Years Hive stating that the subsidy is not payable beyond the date that the child leaves the service.

Parents should give providers 4 weeks’ notice of a departure from a service. When no notice of departure is given by a parent, you may claim up to 4 weeks subsidy in lieu of notice (you cannot claim further payment after this 4-week allowance period). You must then end date the claim 4 weeks in the future and flag the child as a ‘leaver no notice’ when completing your weekly return.

For example, if a child has been absent for 4 weeks from Monday 15th April to Sunday 12th May, the provider may not claim a further 4 weeks payment from Monday 13th May.

Where another provider is claiming 4 weeks payments in lieu of notice, a new provider will not be able to register the child until the 4 weeks has elapsed (essentially the 4 weeks’ notice owed) and the original provider has end-dated the subsidy registration.

When the new provider is blocked from registering the child, it will be the parent’s responsibility to contact the previous provider to record the child’s departure on their Early Years Hive.

NCS how-to training videos

Click on the link to view the training video.

Programme readiness

NCS registrations

NCS returns

Quick Guides

Service Provider-Parent Agreement

Exemption Forms

Appeals

TCAN Template

Force Majeure

The current Policy Guidelines for NCS can be found here.

Compliance

NCS Compliance Checklist for Approved Providers 2023 2024 (3)

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.

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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