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Childcare Subsidy - Asking me to leave daughter in creche for longer hours

  • 13-10-2022 6:05pm
    Registered Users Posts: 1,194 ✭✭✭ CPTM

    We're paying full-time creche fees Monday to Friday. The creche is telling us that in order to avail of the national childcare scheme, we have to stop collecting our daughter early and leave her there for the full day (all the hours we paid for) because the scheme is based on attendance hours, not on number of hours we paid for. So now we're in the position where instead of leaving her in the creche from 9:30am to 4pm, we have to leave her there minimum from 8am to 5pm or else the creche will fail an audit for over-claiming hours. But we've paid for full days so I don't see how it could be fraudulent. Why does the child have to physically be there?

    I'm posting really because it seems a bit strange to me. In order to avail of the scheme fully, the department of children is saying I have to leave her in a creche all day, even though I really don't need to.

    Has anyone else faced this before? Seems counter-intuitive to me unless I'm missing something. Surely the department of children would want to ease pressure on creches right now, and also promote more family time?

    By the way - I'm fully aware that I'm free to walk away from the scheme and not get any subsidy at all! But I feel like I'm missing something.


  • Administrators Posts: 12,216 Admin ✭✭✭✭✭ Big Bag of Chips

    Have you tried contacting the National Childcare Scheme to clarify.

  • Registered Users Posts: 1,194 ✭✭✭ CPTM

    Yes, they sent a long reply which basically amounted to saying that they don't get involved in disputes between childcare facilities and parents and that I should contact the creche directly. But this isn't a dispute with the creche. They charge me 52 hours and I pay it and that's that. They didn't seem to understand that the dispute (for want of a better word) is more with the scheme, and that in order to avail of it I have to keep my daughter physically in the creche for over 45 hours. Again the NCS used the word "attendance" which implies she physically has to be there.

    It's almost like the scheme assumes there is a pay as you go system with the creches. Like if you send your daughter to the creche for 30 hours,you should pay for 30 hours and then claim for 30 hours. But that's not how creches work. You pay for the 50 hours and then use whatever amount suits you in a given week.

    Its only 80 euro subsidy at the moment so I might just not avail of the scheme and continue spending time with my daughter. But it all adds up and if the 25 per cent reduction the government mentioned in the budget is wrapped up into the childcare subsidy scheme it means I'll have to keep my daughter in the creche all day from 8am to 5pm to avail of that 25% reduction.

  • Registered Users Posts: 2,944 ✭✭✭ Sarn

    I thought it was a case that a maximum of 45 hours can be claimed. If I recall correctly, the crèche submit the hours, which is likely to be the 45 hours. Surely it should be a simple thing for the creche to adjust the claimed hours for your child?

  • Registered Users Posts: 1,194 ✭✭✭ CPTM

    Yes the creche submit the hours and that can be flexible but the thing is that I'm paying for over 50 hours a week regardless of how long my daughter is there. So say for example my daughter is sick for a week and attends just 4 hours of creche that week. The fact it's based on attendance rather than payment means that we're not entitled to the subsidy that week.

    Same goes for parents who are fortunate enough to live beside the creche and can collect their kids early, or say they have the odd day or two off from work. This essentially encourages them to keep their child in the creche. It's weird that the department which is specifically looking out for the welfare of children has put that incentive in place.

    Unless they're treating it like school and view the creche as being a better place for babies than being at home? So they have a system in place to encourage parents to leave their children there for as long as possible instead of collecting them early?

  • Registered Users Posts: 2,944 ✭✭✭ Sarn

    It is an odd request from the crèche. Thankfully it is not something that has been asked of us, and attendance would be under 45 hours while paying for 50 hours. Something must have spooked them.

    I would think that the hours claimed under the subsidy are supposed to reflect the typical attendance of the child. Being out sick, going on holidays wouldn’t affect that, otherwise the hours would have to be submitted on a regular basis. Realistically it shouldn’t be an issue once a child attends for the majority of the day on average.

    If they are claiming full hours for children that only attend part-time then I could see an issue.

    Ultimately, as parents who are paying the full fee, you should be able to determine what hours your children attend, within the crèche’s opening hours. If they are worried about the hours being claimed under the subsidy then they should adjust what they claim and look for the difference in the fee from you.

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  • Registered Users Posts: 1,194 ✭✭✭ CPTM

    What are you thinking would be the issue if they're claiming full hours for children that only attend part time? I'm paying around 4.50* (*Figure corrected after poster below noticed the error) euro per hour and the government scheme gives 50 cent per hour so I couldn't see fraud being a worry for example.

    The rule to claim only for attended hours is so bizarre perhaps most creches ignore it for the most part. But in fairness to our creche, they are following the rules. It very clearly states on the NCS website that only hours attended can be claimed for (not those hours paid for). So if I put myself in the position of the creche manager who faces audits and so on to check for these things, I'm not sure what I would do. Particularly if there is going to be an increase in the subsidy from the government and perhaps more audits to ensure things are as they should be.

    Post edited by CPTM on

  • Registered Users Posts: 1,194 ✭✭✭ CPTM

    Looking at the explainer video on the national childcare scheme's website, it talks about how you would first speak to the creche about the hours you want and after you agree the hours, they can register that number of hours online. So it does seem to be set up as if it's a pay as you go type system, or it's set up as if parents can decide what hours they pay for with their local creche but that's not how creches work as far as I know. The creches around us aren't offering half days let alone custom hours.

  • Registered Users Posts: 2,944 ✭✭✭ Sarn

    I would imagine most crèches are of the view that if you’ve payed for full time then the full subsidy should be claimed for, whether it is used or not.

    In relation to part time, if the child was only attending for say, <20 hours per week on average and the full 45 hours was being claimed for. While the 50c an hour might be small, blatant over claiming by the crèche would be difficult to ignore when audited, especially if done for several children.

  • Registered Users Posts: 1,194 ✭✭✭ CPTM

    I suppose it could be a worry maybe from the creche's perspective. They could be asked by the department why they're charging a parent for full time fees when the child is clearly only ever there for less than 20 hours a week. Maybe it raises flags of due diligence on the creche side.

  • Registered Users Posts: 7,781 ✭✭✭ 893bet

    We do similar. But the full time hours are there for the days we need then which happens and the crèche should staff the place on the assumption all children are there full time.

    bizzare from the creche IMO

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  • Registered Users Posts: 2,718 ✭✭✭ standardg60

    I don't see how forcing you to leave your child there longer than you want in order to claim more money wouldn't be seen as fraudulent behaviour either.

  • Registered Users Posts: 1,194 ✭✭✭ CPTM

    But the creche are following the rules aren't they? Or do you mean it's bizarre they're following the rules instead of just submitting extended hours for my daughter? So far I don't have a problem with the creche because from speaking with the NCS, it seems to be more a policy issue.

  • Registered Users Posts: 1,194 ✭✭✭ CPTM

    I suppose it wouldn't be fraudulent by the creche because they're not earning any extra money. I'm already paying them 50+ hours with or without the scheme. And it's not fraudulent in my side because in order to get the 50 cent, I have to pay over 4.50* euro (*Figure corrected after another poster below spotted the error). So I certainly am not getting any additional money.

    From talking to the NCS people, it seems the policy was set up assuming the creche operate like car parks - you should only pay for the time you spend there, and then claim for that as an after thought. But to me that's wishful thinking that the creches can operate like that. My boss doesn't pay me for the hours I work. He pays for 9-5 regardless of how many of those hours I'm required on a given day.

    What's worse is the creche has increased their costs in response to the budget's announcement of a 25% cut in childcare. But from talking to the NCS guys on the phone again, this is only if the child is there for 45 hours plus. So actually the fees for my 6 month old daughter are going to go up (unless I leave her there 8am to after 5pm).

    Post edited by CPTM on

  • Registered Users Posts: 2,718 ✭✭✭ standardg60

    So seemingly the people who drew up the policy are the only ones in the country who don't know that creches charge for a full week regardless of how many hours your child is there?

    Maybe the creche is worried that now they have to submit how many hours they actually take care of your child for that somebody somewhere might deem the whole practice to be illegal.

  • Registered Users Posts: 2,944 ✭✭✭ Sarn

    @CPTM I presume your crèche didn’t sign up to the childcare fee freeze if they are increasing the fee?

  • Registered Users Posts: 21 Chrissy1

    We also are in this position with our Crèche. They have been very clear cannot collect early if we’re availing of the subsidy. Our crèche have gone so far as to say that we will be fined by them if we don’t have our kids in for all the hours we have paid for! I have a half day of annual leave today and can’t collect my kids early. It’s absolutely crazy and not in childrens best interests.

  • Registered Users Posts: 1,227 ✭✭✭ The Mighty Quinn

    You pay 21eur an hour... for 52hrs a week?? €4,400 a month??? 😲

    I remember having a similar dispute with our creche when my girl was starting creche. We wanted 3 days a week rather than full 5, we could juggle work a bit for a while to make it happen, we thought it'd be best for her to ease in and have us as much as possible for as long as possible. We told creche we'd pay the full week, we understood we can't just pick a day or two and pay for those. They refused on the basis that they can't claim for the 45 hours a week if the child isn't physically there for that time in case of audits and inspections etc. It was very frustrating. We ended up putting her into creche for more hours than we'd like, because it was that or no creche place even though we were willing to make full payment.

  • Registered Users Posts: 1,194 ✭✭✭ CPTM

    I hadn't heard about that actually. It's with our second daughter who is joining next year. Normally, the fees decrease as the child moves into new classrooms with a higher ratio of kids to teachers. (3:1 in the baby room to 6:1 in the toddler room). But now the 1000 euro fee will remain unchanged for the entire time my second daughter is in the creche for 3 years (before ECCE kicks in - not sure what happens after that). That's about 200 extra per month after she moves.

  • Registered Users Posts: 2,944 ✭✭✭ Sarn

    The way our fees work is that the subsidy is deducted off the total fee. I don’t understand why the crèche thinks they need to claim the full 45 hours. All they need to do is claim for fewer hours and charge the difference to the parents to avoid being out of pocket.

    Ok, from an admin point of view it could be a little bit messy, but hardly that difficult.

    Not being able to take your child out for a half day for fear of being fined sounds like the crèche is massively misinterpreting the rules. What if your child is out unexpectedly? Are they not allowed a day off without making up an excuse?

  • Registered Users Posts: 1,194 ✭✭✭ CPTM

    To me the creche is acting unreasonably but it's only because the scheme's rule around attendance. There are no what-ifs in the handbook the creches are given. You add up the hours the children were in the creche, and you claim for those hours and the amount is deducted from the following invoice.

    I was on the phone to the NCS team this morning for 45 minutes and basically what they're saying is that they want parents to complain to the creches about how Pay as you Go is not an option. We should be insisting for it to be an option so that if our children are in there for 4 hours, we pay for 4 hours, and we claim for 4 hours. He said that's how it should work and if I have a problem then complain to my local childcare committee who oversee creches or something. I said I'm sorry but a few parents aren't going to change how the creche industry operates. Not when there is a queue down the street of parents who are willing to pay, and names of babies being registered before they're even conceived.

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  • Registered Users Posts: 193 ✭✭ sekond

    I don't think they can do that.

    If they've signed up to the new funding model, they've agreed that they agree "not to increase the fee for any Service Type which was extant on September 30th 2021 or introduce an extra charge for any component of that Service Type."

  • Registered Users Posts: 1,194 ✭✭✭ CPTM

    Interesting.. I might have to mail them about that. Thanks for the link.

  • Registered Users Posts: 1,194 ✭✭✭ CPTM

    To be honest I don't mind as much about my first daughter. She is almost three and loves the creche. I don't necessarily like leaving her there and prefer having her home early but she won't mind being in there full days. But next year when my 6 month old starts it will be tough. Originally we just wanted her to be there for a 3 or 4 hours during the first few months especially, to break her in. But now they're saying from 8am to 5pm which is very long for a baby starting, especially when we're literally sitting 100 yards away ready and able to be with her.

    Edit: As I write that, I know it won't happen. I'd sooner lose out on the 250 euro subsidy and just collect her early.

  • Registered Users Posts: 36 The Dench

    I work in the Childcare industry and there is a lot of mis-information on this thread :

    • The vast majority - 90% - of registered childcare facilities have signed up to receive "core funding" - As part of this agreement thay have to agree to hold their fees at they same level (ie no increases) that they were in Sept 2021 until at least Sept 2023 so any talk of creches increasing fees to parent at the present time is incorrect.
    • As per the recent budget, the current €0.50 per hour awarded to children aged up to 15 years is being increased to € 1.40 per hour. This is a big deal. For anyone in receipt of the full award (45 hours per week - € 22.50) this will translate to an increase from € 97.50 to € 273.00 per month of a discount from their monthly fee.
    • The government make the rules - the creches have to follow them and are subject to fairly rigorous inspections to ensure that they do. The government have said that parents can receive an NCS award up to 45 hours per week but cannot claim for hours that they do not attend. This is based on average hours attendance over a rolling eight week period. If a child needs to be collected early the odd day, thats no problem and won't have any affect on the NCS award (Any creche that says you can't collect your child early is telling porkies!)
    • Every Childcare provider I know (and I know a lot) try and operate within the extremely vexing and time consuming rules and regulations of the various different schemes out there - mainly NCS & ECCE. They pass on the awards, in full, to the parents by way of a discount off their fees and I have never heard of any instances of a creche trying to fraudulently claim for an NCS award. Remember, the parents apply for the NCS award, give the code to the creche - the creche then applies it to the system on the parents behalf. Then the parent approves this application and should sign an NCS agreement on how this award affects their fees. The system while being complicated is very transparent. If a parent feels that the creche has got their child's weekly hours of attendance incorrect they should get straight back on to them.
    • Hours - A lot of creches are open for up 55 hours per week (7:30 to 6:30 Mon to Fri) In the vast majority of childcare facilities that I know, parents that pay full time, five days per week fees can choose to drop and collect their children whenever they want to within these hours. However if a parent is dropping their child, on average, at 9:00 and collecting at 4:30 - under the NCS rules (not the creche's), they are only entitled to an award of 7.5 hours per day or 37.50 per week. All creche owners would agree that this child should be entitled to the full NCS award of 45 hours per week, but unfortunately under the present rules, this is not the case.

  • Registered Users Posts: 1,194 ✭✭✭ CPTM

    In terms of your first bullet point. Would you consider my situation to be an increase in fees?:

    To date in our creche any child moving into higher ratio rooms would have experienced a decrease in monthly fee. From roughly 1000 per month 800. As of the budget day onwards,the creche told us that new children joining the creche will not see this change, and the 1000 euro per month will be fixed for their entire time at the creche regardless of what room they're in. Applies to new children only (ie my 6 month old daughter starting next year).

    In terms of NCS rules. I have emailed the early years section of the department of children who over see the rules. I've told them my story. I'm not exactly hoping for an amazing outcome but I have to do my bit and let them know about it at least.

    Maybe I'll just pretend there was never a scheme and I'll have more peace of mind.

  • Registered Users Posts: 36 The Dench

    Hi CPTM,

    I think you have a case there - it's an increase by stealth!!!

    Tusla will have a list of all the creches fee's as of Sept 2021 that signed up to core funding and if they are made aware that a creche has increased their fee's since this date, then they will investigate. (You can also see these fees, but they are buried right at the bottom of the internet!)

    You would need to compare the price for a child say, aged 2 to 3, now as compared to Sept 2021 - if it's more, it's an increase (in my book anyway)

    Your first port of call should be to phone your local Childcare Committee and ask their advice as to how to proceed. There are childcare committees in every county and they are very aproachable. (If you tell the childcare committee that you want to stay anonymous while doing this I'd say that'd be ok)

  • Registered Users Posts: 58 ✭✭ OrlaFS2017

    I signed up to the scheme but have had a job change since which means I now (on average) pick up my two slightly earlier each day than I said when signing up to the scheme.

    is there a way to amend the hours via the NCS?

  • Registered Users Posts: 36 The Dench

    Parents cannot amend the hours. Ask your creche to do it on the NCS Hive - its a fairly simple process - you should then get notification of their change for your approval. The creche will then work out how the new hours affect your fees, advise you of same and get you to sign a new NCS parental agreement.

    Its a bit clunky, but unfortunately that's the way the system is set up.

  • Registered Users Posts: 1,194 ✭✭✭ CPTM

    You can ask the creche to reduce the hours claimed or remove them altogether I think. Just means you'll get less of a rebate from the government. Which isn't as much at the moment, with the 0.5 euro an hour. It's more when it moves to 1.4 euro rebate an hour you'll miss out. You could also say nothing and see if your creche cares.

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