Minister for Children has launched the new funding model for Early Learning and Childcare

Minister for Children, Roderic O’Gorman, launched the new funding model for Early Learning and Childcare, Together for Better, on 15th September. With just one month to go until this new funding kicks in, we look at exactly what it means for that sector and for parents too.

To date, 94% of providers around the country have signed-up to be Partner Services, working together with the State for better early learning and childcare.

Together for Better forms an interlocking and integrated system of funding designed to improve affordability, accessibility, quality, sustainability, and pay and conditions in the Early Learning and Childcare sector. Together for Better brings together three major schemes, as follows:

  • The National Childcare Scheme (NCS), which provides two types of subsidy to offset against fees:
    • Universal subsidies are available to all families with children between 24 weeks and 15 years of age. This subsidy is not means tested and currently provides 50c per hour towards the cost of a registered early learning and childcare place for a maximum of 45 hours per week. This will increase to €1.40 per hour from 2 January 2023
    • Income Assessed Subsidies are available to families with children aged between 24 weeks and 15 years. This subsidy is means tested and will be calculated based the applicants individual circumstances. The subsidy, which will vary depending on the level of family income, the child’s age and educational stage, and the number of children in a family. It can be used towards the cost of a registered early learning and childcare place for up to a maximum of 45 hours per week. To apply for an Income Assessed subsidy, the reckonable family income has to be less than €60,000 per annum.

The current subsidy rates are:

From 2 January 2023, the subsidy rates will be:

  • The Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) programme, which began in 2010, provides for free universal pre-school for children for 15 hours per week, 38 weeks per year, for the two years before they begin primary school. This includes supports under the Access and Inclusion Model (AIM), designed to ensure that children with disabilities can access and reap the benefits of the ECCE programme.
  • Core Funding is a new funding Scheme that starts the partnership for the public good between the State and providers. Core Funding is funding directly to providers, based on their operating hours, number and age of child places offered. The aim of Core Funding is to allow providers’ costs to increase to improve quality, including the pay and conditions of staff, but to ensure these costs are not passed onto parents in fee increases and that services are not made unsustainable.

A central condition of Together for Better is that there is no increase to parental fees above those that were charged in September 2021, effectively a fee freeze at 2021 rates. In practice, because most providers did not increase fees during Covid-19, this is an effective fee freeze since 2020 levels for most services. This will give parents greater certainty about what they will be charged and ensure that the full affordability benefits of increases to NCS subsidies are felt by parents and not absorbed by fee increases.

Together for Better Partner Services must offer the NCS and/or the ECCE programme to all eligible parents to ensure that parents can avail of their full entitlement to subsidised early learning and childcare provision. Parents in participating services will receive a Parent Statement, explaining the Partner Services commitments under Together for Better in relation to fees and, the ECCE programme and NCS.

Together for Better supports improved quality of services by better enabling providers to attract and retain qualified staff; pay the new Employment Regulation Order rates; establish career structures; introduce or improve other features of high-quality provision, such as non-contact time, planning, training, and curriculum implementation.

Together for Better is already having an impact with more than 4,000 Partner Services who have increased financial stability, 25,000 staff in the sector receiving pay increases, 200,000 children and their families who stand to benefit from greater affordability and better quality of services.

At present only Tusla-registered childminders are able to offer the National Childcare Scheme. Currently the legislation prevents most childminders from registering with Tusla. Work is underway through the National Action Plan for Childminding, to extend regulation to all paid non relative childminders, which will open the National Childcare Scheme to a much wider cohort of childminders.

Parents can find out more information and can check if their service is working Together for Better as a Partner Service in the list published online here.

Parents can also contact their local City/County Childcare Committee if they have any questions about Together for Better here.

If you are already receiving a subsidy through the National Childcare Scheme then you will not need to make any change in order to benefit from the new uplift in subsidy which will apply automatically from 2nd January 2023. If your early learning and childcare provider is registered with Together for Better and you are not receiving the National Childcare Scheme and want to find out more, you can go to or call the NCS Parent Support Centre Monday to Friday 9am-5pm on 019068530