New Northern Ireland Childcare Subsidy Scheme to help with childcare costs

In May the Education Minister, Paul Givan, announced a £25 million package of measures to support children, parents and childcare providers with early learning and childcare. This follows years of campaigning by Employers For Childcare, and many organisations and colleagues from across the sector, which has put childcare firmly at the top of the political agenda.

As part of this package there will be a new Northern Ireland Childcare Subsidy which will provide a 15% contribution to the cost of childcare for children who are under primary school age, from September 2024. At present, the Subsidy is only confirmed for the current financial year (starting in September 2024 and running until the end of March 2025).

Work is ongoing on the design of the scheme and officials are meeting regularly with representative bodies and parents’ groups to secure their input.

What we know so far about the Northern Ireland Childcare Subsidy scheme:

  • The scheme is for eligible working parents with children below primary school age
  • It will provide a 15% subsidy towards the cost of childcare for all below school age children whose parents are eligible for and using Tax-Free Childcare
  • It is due to start in September 2024
  • The 15% subsidy will be paid through registered childcare providers
  • Parents and childcare providers will not be liable for any tax or National Insurance Contributions on the subsidy payments
  • It is not yet clear if parents who use Childcare Vouchers will be eligible for support through the scheme due to issues around different eligibility criteria. Employers For Childcare is engaging with the Minister and his officials on this issue to try and ensure as many working parents in Northern Ireland as possible are supported through the scheme. As soon as we have an update on this position we will share it.

The Department of Education has committed to publishing Frequently Asked Questions to explain in more detail how the Subsidy will work, and we expect to see these in the coming weeks.

Employers For Childcare supports the Northern Ireland Childcare Subsidy scheme as a welcome and important step towards delivering much-needed financial support for parents, as part of a wider package of measures to support the childcare sector. We recognise that it does not support all families and we will continue to work with the Minister and his departmental officials to campaign for the scheme to be expanded in terms of the funding allocation beyond the initial £9 million, and to include all families, with children of all ages.

We also want to ensure that, alongside the design and implementation of this new support scheme, work continues to progress on an ambitious new long-term Early Learning and Childcare Strategy.

Get advice to make sure this is right for your family

While the Northern Ireland Childcare Subsidy will provide valuable additional support for many families, who use Tax-Free Childcare, some parents will be better off using a different form of support. We would encourage anyone who is using Childcare Vouchers, Universal Credit or Tax Credits to call the Family Benefits Advice Service on 028 9267 8200 for advice if you are considering stopping your current form of support to move to Tax-Free Childcare.