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Thousands of families to lose out on money for childcare as Revenue can't give data to government

Revenue is not yet in a position to share information with the relevant department.

Leo Varadkar and Katherine Zappone  announcing the roll out of childcare subsidies in September.
Leo Varadkar and Katherine Zappone announcing the roll out of childcare subsidies in September.

THOUSANDS OF FAMILIES are to lose out on part of the government’s new childcare subsidy due to Revenue not being able to share information with the Department of Children and Youth Affairs.

Children’s Minister Katherine Zappone and Social Protection Minister Leo Varadkar today announced that from September a universal childcare subsidy of up to €20 per week will kick in for children under three.

The universal childcare subsidy applies to 33,000 children, amounting to €1,000 a year.

In addition, the second element of the scheme, which will target low-income families, will be increased by up to 50%, particularly for families on low incomes.

Families to miss out 

It is the second scheme where there’s a problem – and will result in around 9,000 families who should be able to avail of the scheme missing out on up to €12 a week.

Varadkar admitted today that the problem is likely to affect working families, rather than those on social welfare.

Families on the upper levels of the low-income bracket (close to the €47,500 income threshold) who have no dealings with either the Department of Health or the Department of Social Protection because they are working will be left out of the scheme.

Because the families are not on the radar of either department, the only way to verify their income is through Revenue.

Minister Zappone conceded that legislation needs to be brought forward to allow Revenue share income information with her department.

She said the roll-out of the scheme involves a high-spec IT system, whereby people can log in and see if they are eligible and what local childcare facilities they can avail of.

“I am aware of the fact that there will be families that may not be able to get that extra €12 – they will be getting that as soon as possible when the full scheme is available,” said the minister, who blamed the delay in bringing everyone on stream on the building a workable IT system.

‘Big step’

Varadkar added that not every family in Ireland is going to benefit from what is on offer in September, but he said it is a “big step forward”.

“You have to start somewhere,” he said.

When put to the ministers that it is unfair that those who are not in the social welfare system as they have chosen to work will be left behind, Varadkar said:

“It is certainly not as we intended it when we made the announcement some months ago, it was going to be solely based on net income.”

However, when it came to building the IT system he said key information was needed.

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The only the information at hand  and ready to share is the family income supplement from Varadkar’s department and the data on who has a GP card from the Health Department.

“That is going to cover almost everyone,” said Varadkar.

Falling short 

“It is a little bit short,” said Zappone, who added she felt it was better to give most people the benefit now rather than delaying and doing nothing at all.

How long will it take to fix the problem?

New laws are needed to permit the Revenue to hand over the data. Zappone said the heads of the Bill are being scrutinised by her department and the Attorney General.

Sh said she hoped to bring the legislation forward before the Dáil rises for the summer, but this is unlikely.

CEO of Early Childhood Ireland, Teresa Heeney said it’s “a little disappointing that IT and administrative arrangements won’t be in place to deliver the Single Affordable Childcare scheme as soon as was expected which means that 9,000 families will miss out on a €12 subsidy in the short-term”.

However, she said childcare groups intended to work with the relevant bodies to help make sure the scheme becomes a reality.

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