The National Childcare Scheme

What is the National Childcare Scheme?

The National Childcare Scheme is our pathway to truly accessible, affordable, quality childcare. From October 2019 it will replace all previous targeted childcare programmes with a single, streamlined and user-friendly Scheme to help parents meet the cost of quality childcare.

Supports are available for families with children aged between 24 weeks and 15 years who are attending any participating Tusla registered childcare service, including any Tusla registered childminder.

Applications for the NCS can be made here:

Types of Subsidies

There are two types of subsidies available under the National Childcare Scheme:

Universal Subsidies are available to all families with children under 3 years old. They are also available to families with children over 3 years who have not yet qualified for the free preschool programme (ECCE). This subsidy is not means tested and provides 50c per hour towards the cost of a registered childcare place for a maximum of 45 hours per week.

What you will need to apply online:

  • A verified MyGovID account
  • The date of birth and Personal Public Service Number (PPSN) for each of the children you are applying for

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 on your individual circumstances. Your rate will vary depending on your level of family income, your child’s age and educational stage, and the number of children in your family.

If you (and your partner, if you have one) are working, studying or training, the maximum number of subsidised hours available per week are 45.

If you (or your partner, if you have one) are not working, studying or training, the maximum number of subsidised hours available per week are 20.

In both cases the available hours include hours spent in school or preschool. The remaining hours can then be used for ‘wrap-around care’. You can read more about wrap-around care in the Frequently Asked Questions.

What you will need to apply online:

  • A verified MyGovID account
  • Your children’s information such as date of birth and PPSN
  • Your employment and income related details
  • Your partner’s PPSN**
  • Your partner’s employment and income related details**

**if you are a member of a couple

To see what you might be eligible for you can use the Childcare Subsidy Calculator.

To apply for an Income Assessed subsidy your reckonable family income must be less than €60,000 per year.

Reckonable Income

Reckonable income is calculated by taking your net family income and deducting any allowable items under the Scheme, such as the Multiple Child Discount.

In other words it is the family income, including social protection payments, after tax, PRSI, USC, and any allowable items under the Scheme have been deducted.

To calculate your reckonable income the following items can be deducted from your net income:

  • A Multiple Child Discount of €4,300 for families with 2 children under the age of 15
  • A Multiple Child Discount of €8,600 for families with 3 or more children under 15
  • Pension contributions, up to the limit allowed by the Revenue Commissioners as a deduction from tax. More information on pension contributions is available on the Revenue website.
  • Any maintenance payments made by you in respect of a child or former spouse

The following social protection payments (correct as of March 2019):

Aftercare Allowance Foster Care Allowance
Back to Education Allowance FET Training Allowance
Back to School Clothing and Footwear Allowance Guardian’s Payment
Back to Work Enterprise Allowance Humanitarian Assistance Scheme
Back to Work Family Dividend Mobility Allowance
Blind Welfare Allowance Personal Reader Grant
Caranua Payment Rent Supplement
Carer’s Support Grant Short-Term Enterprise Allowance
Constant Attendance Allowance Springboard+
Department of Education and Skills Third Level Bursary Scheme Payment Student Assistance Fund
Diet Supplement payment Student Grant SUSI
Domiciliary Care Allowance VTOS Training Allowance
Exceptional Needs Payments Youthreach Allowance

If you are applying for an Income Assessed subsidy your income assessment will, in general, be based on your income from the previous tax year. However, you can choose to have your income from the current year assessed if you prefer. You may choose this option if your circumstances have changed from the previous tax year, and you believe that your income from the current year will be significantly less than your income from the previous year.

There are two ways your income can be assessed:

1) You can choose to have your income automatically assessed using information available from the most recent year from the Revenue Commissioners and the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection. This is called ‘Fast Track’. If you choose to Fast Track your assessment, the Scheme’s IT system automatically retrieves the information from Revenue and Social Protection using your Personal Public Service (PPS) number (and your partner’s, if you have one). This is typically the fastest way to have your income assessed and your application processed, and you don’t need to provide any supporting documents when applying.

2) You can choose to provide supporting documents, such as payslips or Social Protection declarations, which show your income and have them reviewed and assessed by an officer of the Scheme Administrator. These documents provide the same information that would otherwise be provided by Revenue and Social Protection via the Scheme’s IT system under the Fast Track option. All of the supporting documents that you need can be found in the Application Form Guide. They can be uploaded with your application either by scanning them onto your computer or by taking a photograph.

If you choose to have your income assessed on the current year, you will be required to manually provide supporting documents. Applications which are manually reviewed and assessed will take longer to process than Fast Track assessments.

How will the subsidies work?

The National Childcare Scheme is designed to be flexible, recognising that childcare needs are different for each family. The system has been designed to respond to these needs by providing subsidies which can be applied to the amount of care agreed between parents and providers.

Parents and providers will continue to work together as they currently do, agreeing the amount of care based on a combination of what a parent needs and what a provider can reasonably offer.

Providers will continue to set their own fees, sessions and decide their own admissions policies. The subsidy can then be applied to the care agreed, up to the maximum amount available under Scheme limits.

You can use your subsidy with any childcare provider who is participating in the Scheme. Your subsidy will be paid directly to your chosen childcare provider once you have made arrangements with them. To find childcare services in your area who are participating in the Scheme you can use the Childcare Search.

After your application has been approved, you will receive a unique code, called a CHICK (Childcare Identifier Code Key). The CHICK, along with your child’s name and date of birth, are all your provider needs to register your child on the National Childcare Scheme. After you have confirmed the details registered by your provider, the Department of Children and Youth Affairs will pay the subsidy to them on your behalf. Your provider will then subtract your subsidy from your childcare bill, reducing your childcare costs.

Parent Information Booklets are available to download in a number of different languages (see below)

NCS Parent info – English

NCS Parent Info – Brazilian Portuguese

NCS Parent Info – Chinese

NCS Parent Info – Czech

NCS Parent Info – French

NCS Parent info – Irish

NCS Parent Info – Italian

NCS Parent Info – Latvian

NCS Parent Info – Lithuanian

NCS Parent Info – Polish

NCS Parent Info – Romanian