QUESTION to the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Dr. James Reilly, TD)
For WRITTEN ANSWER on 16/12/2014
To ask the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the average waiting time for payments under the early childhood care and education scheme; the longest period that a service provider has been waiting for payment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. – Jerry Buttimer
The Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) programme is implemented by my Department and provides a free pre-school year to all children before they commence primary school. There are in the region of 4,200 childcare providers participating in the programme, providing the free pre-school provision to approximately 68,000 children each year. This programme represents an annual investment of almost €175 million.
An advance payment is made to participating childcare providers at the end of August each year and is based on the number of children which were enrolled in that service for the free pre-school programme in the previous academic year. This payment provides for the first 8 weeks of the new school year. In the case of new participants in the programme, a similar advance payment is made but in respect of a maximum of 3 children only. There is provision under the programme to make an additional advance payment if a provider has a significantly higher number of children than that provided for in the initial advance payment.
In previous years, a further payment was made in mid-October following the submission of the annual parental returns detailing the number of eligible children enrolled in each service, based on the actual number of children enrolled and covering payments up to the first week of December.
A new Programmes Implementation Platform (PIP) is currently being introduced which is expected to streamline the payment process for all of the childcare support programmes implemented by this Department. Due to some initial difficulties experienced in relation to the registration of eligible children on the new system, it was not possible to issue a payment in October based on actual numbers of children enrolled. A further advance payment was issued, covering a further 5 weeks. Service providers were advised that they could apply through their local City or County Childcare Committee to increase or decrease the number of children for which an advance was being paid.
The payment which issued to service providers in the first week of December reflects the amount due up to 23rd January 2015 in respect of actual number of children registered.
Where childcare providers are in contract with my Department to provide the free pre-school year and have satisfied the terms and conditions of the programme, payments in general issue in accordance with the draft payment schedule which is published on the Department’s website at the beginning of each school year. There are exceptions where, for example, an up to date tax clearance certificate is not provided or where bank details or some other information has not been submitted. As well as the payment dates covered in the payment schedule, a payment batch is processed every week to ensure that funding issues to providers who submit tax clearance certificates or other details after the date of the major payment.