Extra childcare supports which will benefit up to 70,000 children and their families has been launched today.

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Dr Katherine Zappone’s Affordable Childcare Scheme will see supports being paid to the childcare provider in order to assist parents with the cost.

Minister Zappone says that so far, the number of providers signing up to deliver the extra supports continues to rise. 2,805 providers are now on board representing 76% of eligible services (3,705).

There are two supports; one in which children aged between 6 months and 3 years can receive supports of up to €1,040 per year, and another targeted support which can reach a sum of €7,500 per child per year (a 50% increase on previous supports).

She has however warned that if creches hike their costs in a bid to “abuse” the subsidies, she will take action and clamp down on the scheme.

“I note early indications that the vast majority of services are not increasing fees and welcome this. This is something my Department will continue to monitor in the coming weeks and months.

“While there is no evidence of subsidies being abused – if action is required I will act.”

Speaking to the Irish Independent, she says that price increases are justifiable when it is “clearly demonstrated” that they are to “meet pay needs, improve quality, and always in consultation with parents.”

“What cannot be defended are unexpected price increases which leave parents with little or no option but to pay up. This is not acceptable… Possible actions could include regulation or price capping for Government schemes.”

Minister Zappone also says that in the coming weeks an Independent Review of the Cost of Childcare will commence, with a tight timeline of ten-months in order to inform decisions around Budget 2019.

She will now turn her attention towards working with parents, providers and Government colleagues regarding securing investment in childcare in Budget 2018 and beyond.

Minister Zappone added; “The names of signed up services will now be placed online at www.affordablechildcare.ie and will be updated on a regular basis. This will assist parents in accessing the supports put in place by the government to lower the cost of childcare for families in Ireland.

“In recognition of the extra administrative work services have undertaken I will be making an extra payment of €3.5m available before the end of the year – bringing the total for such payments in 2017 to an unprecedented €18m.

“I want to send best wishes, support and congratulations to children starting childcare services across the country in the coming days. It is a big moment for children, parents and providers. I wish them all well.”