National Childcare Scheme (NCS)

The National Childcare Scheme offers financial help to every child in Ireland. It offers both 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.

Through all of the above, the National Childcare Scheme aims to improve children’s outcomes, support lifelong learning, make work pay, reduce child poverty and tangibly reduce the cost of quality childcare for thousands of families across Ireland.

The three types of subsidies under the National Childcare Scheme: 

Universal Subsidies

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 €1.40  per hour towards the cost of a registered childcare place for a maximum of 45 hours per week.

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’.

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. There are strict criteria, and the need for a referral is determined by the relevant Sponsor Body and their decision is based on the particular need of the child in line with their defined criteria.

The NCS website also includes the NCS Subsidy Calculator; a useful tool to help you estimate how much subsidy you may be eligible to apply for.

The National Childcare Scheme Parent Support Centre

Is open Monday to Friday from 9am to 5pm Telephone: 01 906 8530.