Minister O’Gorman welcomes substantial investment under Budget 2024

– Minister O’Gorman today unveiled an investment package worth €1.1bn for early learning and childcare for 2024, building on the substantial investment in Budget 2023 and delivering a 70% increase in total State investment in the sector since 2020.

– Families receiving the National Childcare Scheme (NCS) universal subsidy will see a further 25% average reduction in the cost of using full time early learning and childcare services. Also from September 2024, families using childminders can start to benefit from the NCS for the first time.

– Significant investment of over €1bn has been secured for Tusla, the Child and Family Agency. Foster Carers will receive an increase in the Foster Care Allowance-

– Minister Rabbitte has secured an investment of €195m in Specialist Community Based Disability Services, which transferred to the Department in March, bringing the total budget to €2.8bn. This includes increased funding to enhance residential places, respite services, PA hours, Home Support and provide additional day places for school leavers.

Early Learning and Childcare Funding

The 2024 Budget follows an historic €1.025 billion made available in Budget 2023 for early learning and childcare.

This Budget continues to improve investment for early learning and childcare with funding increasing by 8% or €83 million in 2024, to €1.108 billion.

Through this funding, there will be improved affordability for parents, improved availability of early learning and childcare places and additional supports for children with a disability and for children experiencing disadvantage. There will also be significant enhancements to the Core Funding Scheme.

National Childcare Scheme

Budget 2024 introduces further reforms to the National Childcare Scheme (NCS) from September 2024, which will continue to improve the affordability of early learning and childcare for families and will enable families who use childminders to benefit from the Scheme for the first time.

From September 2024, all families accessing registered early learning and childcare will receive a minimum hourly universal NCS subsidy of €2.14 off their out of pocket costs, rising from a current hourly rate of €1.40.

For families on the minimum or universal subsidy, this will mean up to €5,007 off their annual bill per child. This represents up to an additional €1,731 off the annual cost of early learning and childcare per child.

Families on the maximum subsidies under the NCS, based on an income assessment and the age of the child, can already receive up to €11,934 off their annual fee.

Minister O’ Gorman said:

“Delivering on my promise to bring further reductions to the cost of early learning and childcare in 2024 as well as opening up the NCS to families who use childminders has been my priority in Budget 2024. Changes to the NCS, from September 2024, through the universal subsidy, will substantially reduce out of pocket costs – by 25% on average and will benefit more than 150,000 individual children”.

Equal Participation Model

Budget 2024 also introduces a new initiative from September 2024 called the Equal Participation Model (EPM), which will assist services to enhance supports to all children who may be vulnerable or experiencing disadvantage.

The supports are both universal and targeted, meaning some are for all early learning and childcare services and the children they serve, while some are for services who provide early learning and childcare in a context of high levels of concentrated disadvantage.

The initial rollout of supports under the EPM will start from September 2024 with phase one, with phases two and three following in subsequent years.

Access and Inclusion Model (AIM)

Budget 2024 also provides for the continued implementation of the Access and Inclusion Model (AIM) to ensure that an increasing cohort of children with a disability – approximately 7,000 – can access and meaningfully participate in the ECCE Pre-School Programme next year. It also provides for an expansion of targeted AIM supports to these children beyond time spent in the ECCE programme, in term and out of term.

Core Funding

€303.31m has been allocated for Core Funding in 2024, a 14% increase on the 2023 investment in the scheme. This substantial increase on the 2023 allocation will support continued implementation of the scheme for the second programme year, September 2023 to August 2024 and into the third programme year from September 2024, with additional funding of €14.65m being made available from September 2024.

The additional funding from September 2024 translates into a full year allocation of €331m for year 3 of Core Funding, an increase of €44m, or 15%, on the current allocation of €287m and will delivery of a range of enhancements in Year 3 of the scheme to support improved affordability and accessibility for families, improved pay and conditions for the workforce and improved sustainability for providers.

Disability Services

An additional €195m will be invested in Disability Services for 2024, bringing total investment to €2.8bn. Funding will be directed towards the enhancement of person-centred supports and services, supporting the progressive rollout of the Action Plan for Disability Services and the Roadmap for Children’s Disability Services.

The Disability Services Budget in 2024 will include:

– €20.5m in extra funding for disability residential services for adults and children to deliver approximately 100 new residential places

– €10m in respite services to build on existing provision, to provide more alternative respite such as in homes, after-school and deliver new or enhanced services to families

– €8.5m to improve children’s services including the recruitment of additional therapy positions, increasing third level places and supports for specialist children’s disability services

– €18.2m for placements in adult day services for 1,250-1400 young people leaving school in 2024 and €23.7m in funding to provide for the full cost of school leavers in 2023

– €2m additional funding in Personal Assistant services to promote independent living, delivering around 80,000 additional hours, continued investment in Home Support services, and €1.4m for specialist community supports for people with neurological impairments

– In addition, Capital investment of €23.7m will provide for the upgrade and development of disability services

The allocation for 2024 will also drive a broader programme of work in Disability Equality Policy. A dedicated budget will support the implementation of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCPRD). In particular, we will develop and implement an ambitious new National Disability Strategy and the Autism Innovation Strategy. Funding will support important initiatives under the Disability Participation and Awareness Fund, including ring-fenced support for Disabled Persons Organisations, and employment supports for persons with disabilities through the Towards Work and Employers for Change Initiatives, as well as enhanced stakeholder engagement.

Minister Rabbitte commented,

“I am fully committed to the continuous advancement of rights under the UNCRPD and to improving the range of disability services available to both children and adults. This year’s allocation demonstrates the Government’s strong commitment to building capacity in this area. This funding will provide greater investment in a range of service areas such as residential, respite, children’s services, day services, PA, Home Support and neurological community services.

“It will also provide for a further iteration of important inclusion measures under the Disability Participation and Awareness Fund, including funding for Disabled Persons Organisations (DPOs), and support the development of the next National Disability Strategy and Autism Innovation Strategy. I will be working closely with my ministerial colleagues, the HSE, voluntary providers and DPOs to ensure this funding has a substantial impact in 2024.

“I will continue in 2024 to do the very best I can for people with disabilities and their families, to provide intervention and care when it is needed and to progressively deliver tangible improvements to the lives of people with disabilities.”