National Childcare Scheme (NCS)

The National Childcare Scheme is a landmark scheme for Ireland. It is the first ever statutory entitlement to financial support for childcare.
It establishes an equitable and progressive system of universal and income-related subsidies for children up to the age of 15.
 It also provides an innovative and user-friendly online application process to access those subsidies.

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Overview of the Scheme

The National Childcare Scheme (NCS) is a financial support for parents/carers towards the cost of their childcare in a Tusla registered childcare service. It establishes a system of universal and income-related subsidies for children up to the age of 15. It also provides an online application system to access those subsidies. For more information on the National Childcare Scheme, please see the full Policy Guidelines.

What does National Childcare Scheme mean for parents/carers?

The National Childcare Scheme is designed to be flexible, recognising that childcare needs are different for each family. In creating a single national scheme, the aim is to operate within a user-friendly system that can respond to both the parent/carer’s unique circumstances and to also reflect the needs of providers. The National Childcare Scheme will replace all previous targeted programmes available to parents/carers, and will enable some families to become eligible for subsidies for the first time.

Parents/carers will apply directly to the Scheme for financial support, meaning providers will no longer need to manage parental paperwork in order to apply for subsidies. The Scheme is operated under a single system that will ensure streamlined administration for providers and establish a sustainable basis for State investment in Early Learning and Care and School Age Childcare (Afterschool) over the next decade.

What makes parents/carers eligible under National Childcare Scheme?

There are two subsidy options available on the scheme:

Universal subsidy

Rate of €0.50 per/hr (40 hrs max.) available to all parents/carers (on any income level):

  • with a child/children aged 6 months – 3 years (before qualifying for Early Childhood Care Education (ECCE) programme)
  • using or seeking a place in a Tusla registered childcare service
Income assessed subsidy

Provides a higher rate of subsidy available to qualifying parents/carers (reckonable income below €60,000):

  • with a child/children aged 6 months – 15 years
  • using or seeking a place in a Tusla registered childcare service (up to max. 40 hours per week)

Sponsored Subsidies

The legislation that underpins the National Childcare Scheme details the five statutory bodies that can refer a child under S.14 for a fully funded sponsored place (see Schedule 2 of the Childcare Support Act 2018). This means that the parent(s)/carer(s) of a sponsored child will pay no fees to the childcare provider. There is no income assessment involved.

Each Sponsor has an agreement with the Department of Children and Youth Affairs as to the grounds for making a referral, the hours that may be referred and rates per hour to be paid to the Provider. To refer a child, the Referral Officer on behalf of the Sponsor, completes a Sponsor Referral form. The Referral form may be posted directly to us or given to the parent to submit as a scanned copy through the Parent Portal.

Once received by Pobal, it is converted to a Sponsor Application by our staff and processed the same day. The result is a Sponsor CHICK (Child Identifier Code Key) that is used to register the child in the usual way, depending on availability of a place at your service. Referrals may be marked ‘urgent’ and we can facilitate cases where a child registration is urgently needed. In Sponsor cases the parent is not required to approve the registration, and payment will follow in the next weekly payment run.

How does National Childcare Scheme affect my relationship with parents/carers?

Subsidies are awarded based on parent’s/carer’s circumstances and are awarded as an hourly rate for a specified number of hours (15 hrs. max- 40 hrs max.). Parents/carers and providers will continue to work together to reach agreement on the level of hours of childcare, based on what parents/carers need and what you can reasonably offer to them. Similar to the process on the current PIP system, you will set your services fees, session types and admission policies. You will continue to set service opening days and times, and the hours of childcare available to parents/carers is solely at the discretion of each provider.

National Childcare Scheme contracting

To participate in the National Childcare Scheme you must:

  • Be registered with Tusla
  • Enter into a contract with the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs in respect of the NATIONAL CHILDCARE SCHEME

Contracts are for a 12 month period and are renewable. The contracting process will open in June 2019 and will involve 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.


Authorised officers will make on-site visits to childcare facilities to confirm that certain key NCS rules are being complied with Under the Childcare Support Act 2018, these officers are allowed to enter childcare premises, inspect any books, records or other documents relating to the operation of the service.

It is important that services facilitate the compliance visit and provide the requisite records/ information to the authorised officer during the course of the unannounced visits.

Attendance Tracker

The accurate recording of a child’s attendance is a core obligation under the Child Care Act 1991 (Early Years Services) Regulations 2016.

This 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.

Service provider-parent agreement

It is mandatory for a service provider to have a written contract or agreement in place with every parent under the National Childcare Scheme. This short document offers guidance to providers on the content of written agreements which must be in place with parents who receive subsidies under the National Childcare Scheme.

Childcare providers can find out more information on the 'Early Years Hive' website...

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