Fianna Fáil TD for Donegal Charlie McConalogue is calling on the Children’s Minister to close a loophole in the ECCE system, which limits enrolment options.  Under the current scheme, children can only be admitted to the scheme in September, January and April, which means that the number of weeks of childcare that kids are entitled to depends on what time of the year they were born.

Deputy McConalogue explained, “The perceived expansion of the ECCE scheme, which was announced with much fanfare by the Government, has fallen far short of what was promised.  At the time of the launch the Minister talked about two years of free pre-school, however in many cases, this has translated into an extra three months, which while welcome, is far short of the two years that were announced.

“A loophole in the ECCE scheme, which the Government failed to close, only allows for children to be enrolled at three intervals – September, January and April.  This means that a child born in February will only benefit from an extra 20 weeks of childcare before they transition to primary school aged 4.5 years.

“Parents have been contacting me frustrated by the system, especially when their three year old child cannot access the childcare, which has been promised by the Government.  Childcare is one of the biggest issues in this county, especially for families where both parents want to work.  However, the token measures being offered by the State are well short of what’s needed.

“Childcare is a key priority for my party – and we have been consistent in our calls for improved supports for parents and children.  We want to see children over the age of 2.5 given access to an additional 38 weeks of free pre-school, to be used at their parents’ discretion. This proposal takes a more common sense approach and would allow parents to schedule their child’s enrolment to take full advantage of the ECCE scheme.”