The National Childcare Scheme

The National Childcare Scheme opened in November 2019. It supports families with children aged between 24 weeks and 15 years who are attending any participating Tusla registered childcare service, including any Tusla registered childminder.

Under the National Childcare Scheme, parents use an online application system to apply directly for subsidies.
There are two types of supports available under the Scheme: a Universal subsidy and an Income Assessed subsidy.

Universal Subsidy

The Universal subsidy is available to all families with children under three years. It is also available to families with children over three who have not yet qualified for the free preschool programme (ECCE). The Universal subsidy provides €1.40 per hour towards the cost of a registered childcare place for up to a maximum of 45 hours per week

Income Assessed

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.

Sponsor Referral

Vulnerable children may be eligible for a Sponsor Referral from a Sponsor Body.

Section 14 of the Childcare Support Act 2018 allows special arrangements where a child can be referred by certain Statutory Organisations for an NCS subsidy where childcare is needed on child welfare, child protection, family support or other specified grounds. 

How the Subsidies will work

The National Childcare Scheme is designed to be flexible, recognising that childcare needs are different for each family. Subsidies are awarded as an hourly rate, along with a maximum number of hours for which this rate is payable. The award is then broken up into segments, which show any changes to the subsidy rate and hours over the course of the year, such as a change in the child’s age or educational stage.

The hourly rate of subsidy illustrates to parents their level of subsidy. Parents and providers will continue to work together as they currently do to decide on the hours of childcare that are needed and can be provided. These hours are a combination of what a parent needs and what a provider can reasonably offer. Providers will continue to set their own fees, sessions and admissions policies. The hours of childcare available to parents are solely at the discretion of each provider. The hourly subsidy rate can be applied to the hours agreed between the parent and provider. Where these hours are the same as the maximum hours available to the parent under their subsidy award, all of the hours of care will be subsidised.

For example, where a parent has been awarded 45 hours and has agreed 45 hours of childcare with their provider, then all 45 hours will be subsidised. Where the hours agreed are greater than the maximum hours available to the parent under their subsidy award, the remaining hours of care will be unsubsidised and paid for in full by the parent.

Where a referral is made by a sponsor body, the family will automatically qualify for a subsidy without having to satisfy the Scheme’s eligibility, income or maximum hour requirements. Details on the operation of sponsored referrals are available on the website

Subsidies will typically be awarded on a yearly basis. Providers and parents will receive a notification alerting them when a subsidy is due for renewal. If either a parent or a provider is not satisfied with, for example, a subsidy award or the amount of the subsidy paid in respect of a child, the parent or provider, as appropriate, will have the right to have the decision reviewed by an officer of the Scheme Administrator.

If they are still not satisfied following the outcome of the review, they will have a further right of appeal for details available on the website

Participation in the National Childcare Scheme

To participate in the National Childcare Scheme you must; be registered with Tusla and enter into a contract with the Department of Children and Youth Affairs in respect of the National Childcare Scheme.

Contracts are for a 12 month period and are renewable each programme year. Involved in this process your Tusla registration will be checked and you will be required to have an up to date fees list and service calendar completed on the Hive. The contract will then be made available for the Owner/Primary Authorised User to sign electronically.

NCS Service Provider Training Videos

There is a dedicated National Childcare Scheme YouTube playlist for childcare providers and stakeholders.

This playlist will continually be updated and added to over time.