Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Children & Youth Affairs Anne Rabbitte says she’s extremely frustrated by the Department of Children’s apparent failure to prepare systems for the rollout of the Single Affordable Childcare Scheme.

Appearing before the Oireachtas Committee on Children & Youth Affairs, Minister Katherine Zappone admitted that the online system for applications for the targeted subsidy is unlikely to be ready by September.

Deputy Rabbitte commented, “When the Single Affordable Childcare Scheme was announced, Minister Zappone proposed an integrated online portal, which would allow parents apply for the universal subsidy, as well as the targeted subsidy, which would incorporate income data from Revenue.  This would ensure that parents were receiving the correct payments and it would cut out excessive paperwork.  However, at the Oireachtas Committee meeting this week, the Minister admitted that the online portal is unlikely to be ready by September.

“The rollout is clearly some way off, as the team leader position for the programme is still being advertised, and the State agency responsible for running the online portal has failed to outline how many people it will need to staff the system.

“This is a major setback for the ACS scheme, and will create an additional headache for parents.  Instead of using an integrated online system, they’ll now be expected to go through a raft of paperwork to apply for the scheme and then possibly another assessment process to establish what level of subsidy they are entitled to.  Not only will this involve more form-filling than the online system, it will also be more time consuming.

“I am baffled by the delays in rolling out this online portal, especially when information supplied to Fianna Fáil via Parliamentary Question that Minister Zappone’s Department has already spent €27,950 evaluating potential ICT systems.

“I’m particularly worried about the impact these delays will have on low income families.  The online system would calculate entitlements almost immediately, but now they will have to wait to find out what level of subsidy they are eligible for, and this could have an impact on when children are offered a place on the scheme.

“Since the announcement of the scheme, I have expressed my concerns over the lack of income progression built into it, and these delays are further evidence that the needs of low income households are falling on deaf ears”.