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Guide to the ECCE Programme and Administrative Procedures

Programmes Implementation Platform (PIP)

On Friday 13th June 2014, the first information about the new Programmes Implementation Platform (PIP), for September 2014 was sent out by local CCCs to all service providers.  See link to PIP News item on the Pobal website.


PIP is a new online system which will streamline the administrative processes across the three national childcare funding programmes (ECCE, TEC and CCS).  A dedicated PIP Homepage has been set up on the Pobal Website which will provide regular updates and supports to childcare providers as the new system is rolled out. 

Pobal

ECCE Guide


The information in this Guide relates to administrative procedures and is aimed at service providers.  The forms referred to in the text are available for download here.

In this document, “the Department” means the Department of Children and Youth Affairs.  “Local CCC” means your local City or County Childcare Committee.  A list of the CCCs, together with their telephone numbers, can be downloaded here.

 Table of Contents


1.  Overview of the Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) Programme

2.  Electronic Fund Transfer

    2.1 Tax Clearance

    2.2 Child and Family Agency Registration

    2.3 Outstanding debts to the Department

    2.4 Minimum size of service

    2.5 Staff Qualifications

    2.6 Higher Capitation Fee

    2.7 Staff Ratio

    2.8 Closure of services, moving premises, or transfer of ownership

    2.9 Optional Additional Charges

3.  Eligibility Criteria

4.  Electronic Returns

5.  Compliance

6.   Applications to waive the upper age limit and for pro-rata arrangements 

7. Forms

 

1.    Overview of the Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) Programme


The free Pre-School Year in Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) programme was introduced in January 2010.  The programme is administered by the Department of Children and Youth Affairs and Pobal, acting as agents for the Department, with the local operation of the programme managed by the City and County Childcare Committees (CCCs).

Children qualify for the free pre-school year where they are aged more than 3 years 2 months and less than 4 years 7 months at 1 September in the relevant pre-school year.

 

To avail of the programme at any stage during the pre-school year commencing  Children must have been born between the following dates
(both dates inclusive)
September 2014 2 February 2010 and 30 June 2011
September 2015 2 February 2011 and 30 June 2012

The objective of the ECCE programme is to make early learning in a formal setting available to eligible children in the year before they commence primary school.  To achieve this, services participating in the pre-school year are required to provide age-appropriate activities and programmes to children within a particular age cohort.  For this reason, it is necessary to set minimum and maximum limits to the age range within which children will qualify to participate in the programme.

Both community and commercial service providers can apply to participate in the ECCE programme.  

Payment under the ECCE programme is by way of capitation fees which are paid directly to the service provider.  A capitation fee is payable in respect of each eligible child enrolled in the free pre-school year, on a pro-rata basis if applicable.  A higher rate of capitation is payable in respect of certain pre-school services with more highly qualified staff.

The free pre-school year is delivered on the basis of 3 hours per day, 5 days per week, 38 weeks per year.  If a parent chooses to enroll a child for fewer than 5 days per week, the capitation fee payable will be reduced on a pro-rata basis.

It is a fundamental principle of the programme that the pre-school year is available free to parents, and all participating services are obliged to meet the costs of the free pre-school year out of the capitation fees.  Services may, however, charge parents for additional services provided, including additional hours and additional activities, provided that certain rules are followed in relation to such charges.

 

 

2. Electronic Fund Transfer


Payments under the ECCE programme are made via electronic fund transfer.  To facilitate this, service providers must advise Pobal of their bank account details using EFT Form - New Applicants to the DCYA child care programmes form.  If a provider changes his or her bank account for any reason, s/he must notify Pobal as soon as possible, using EFT Form - Change in Bank Details for providers already participating in DCYA child care programmes form.

Single Euro Payments Area (SEPA)


From 1st February 2014, bank sort codes and bank account numbers were replaced by Bank Identifier Codes (BIC) and International Bank Account Numbers (IBAN).  For this reason, any service notifying the Department of its bank details is required to provide the BIC and IBAN.  This requirement is included in the current version of EFT Forms. The BIC and IBAN will be shown on your bank statement.

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2.1    Tax Clearance

Services are required to demonstrate tax compliance by providing a valid, up-to-date Tax Clearance Certificate (TCC) from the Revenue Commissioners.  The TCC must be in the name of the provider or the service; certificates in the name of another person will not be accepted.  Services participating in the programme are responsible for ensuring that a renewed TCC is provided to Pobal when it falls due.

Payments in respect of ECCE services cannot be issued in the absence of an up-to-date Tax Clearance Certificate.

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2.2    Child and Family Agency Registration

Contracts may not be entered into with services which have outstanding debts to the Department in respect of previous payments under the child care programmes.  Where a contract is entered into with such services, the debt will be automatically deducted from future payments due.

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2.3    Outstanding debts to the Department


Participating pre-school services are required to be registered with the Child and Family Agency.  A list of all applicants for entry or re-entry to the programme is forwarded by the DCYA to the Pre-School Inspector in the Child and Family Agency.  The Inspector will advise the DCYA where an applicant is not registered with them.  In addition, where a pre-school service is being prosecuted by the Child and Family Agency for non-compliance with the Pre-School Regulations, the Child and Family Agency will advise the DCYA of the position.  A service which has been closed for reasons of child welfare and protection, or which has been successfully prosecuted, may not be admitted to the programme.  Where these circumstances apply to a service already participating in the programme, the contract may be terminated.

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2.4    Minimun size of service

Services are expected to have a minimum enrolment of at least 8 eligible children to participate in each pre-school session, and a service that does not have this level of participation has no entitlement to be funded under the programme. Exceptions to this minimum requirement will be considered where, for good reason, a service which is an appropriate setting for the pre-school year has (a) an enrolment of at least 8 children of whom at least 3 qualify for the programme and the remainder will qualify in the following year, or (b) is a smaller service which has an enrolment of not fewer than 5 children in their pre-school year.
Compliance with this requirement will be checked by representatives of Pobal in the course of their on-site compliance visits.

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2.5    Staff Qualifications

Pre-school Leaders must hold a certification for a major award in childcare/early education at a minimum of level 5 on the National Framework of Qualifications of Ireland (NFQ) or an equivalent nationally recognised qualification or a higher award in the childcare/early education field.  In the case of pre-school services registering with the Child and Family Agency from 1st September 2014, pre-school leaders must hold a certification for a major award in childcare/early education at a minimum of level 6 on the NFQ, and all staff working with children in the service must hold a certification for a major award in childcare/early education at a minimum of level 5 on the NFQ.  From September 2015, the pre-school leaders in ALL services participating in the ECCE programme will be required to hold a certification for a major award in childcare/early education at a minimum of level 6 on the NFQ, and all staff working with children in the service will be required to hold a certification for a major award in the childcare/early education at a minimum of level 5 on the NFQ.

The content of all relevant major awards must include significant content on child development 0 – 6, early childhood curriculum and child health and welfare.  Information in relation to a published list of relevant qualifications for the Early Childhood Care and Education Sector will be available on this website at the end of August 2015.

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2.6    Higher Capitation Fee

A higher capitation fee is payable to pre-school service providers where all the pre-school leaders delivering the pre-school service hold a nationally accredited major award in Early Childhood Care and Education at Level 7 on the National Framework of Qualifications (NFQ) or equivalent and have 3 years experience working in the sector, and where all the pre-school assistants in the service hold a relevant major award in childcare/early education at level 5 on the NFQ or its equivalent.   

Please note that not all Level 7 or 8 awards are acceptable as qualifying for the higher capitation fee.  In order for an award to qualify, it must include significant content in core knowledge areas such as child development 0-6 years and early childhood education theory and practice.  For example, secondary school teaching qualifications are not acceptable as they do not cover these core knowledge areas.

Information in relation to a published list of relevant qualifications for the Early Childhood Care and Education Sector will be available on this website at the end of August 2015.


Higher qualified staff attracting the higher capitation rate must work directly with the children at all times during the ECCE sessions.  Where there is more than one pre-school session taking place at the same time, the leader in each session must hold a nationally accredited major award in Early Childhood Care and Education at Level 7 on the National Framework of Qualifications (NFQ) or equivalent and have 3 years experience working in the sector, and all the pre-school assistants in each ECCE session must hold a relevant major award in childcare/early education at level 5 on the NFQ or its equivalent.  If this rule is not observed, services are in breach of their contractual obligations, and will lose the higher capitation rate.

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2.7    Staff Ratio

With effect from September 2012, new staff ratios apply in respect of the pre-school session element of services for service providers participating in the ECCE Programme. This also affects the space ratios and sanitary accommodation requirements.

The minimum number of pre-school leaders and assistants in the free Pre-School Year service is as follows:

Up to 11 children:  1 pre-school leader
12-22 children:  1 pre-school leader and 1 pre-school assistant
23-33 children:   2 pre-school leaders and 1 pre-school assistant
34-44 children:  2 pre-school leaders and 2 pre-school assistants
and so on.

For each maximum group size of up to 22 children in an ECCE setting there must be at least 1 pre-school leader who meets the qualification requirements outlined above (i.e. minimum NFQ Level 5 or equivalent).  [For qualification requirements applying from September 2015, see section 2.6.]
Where the programme is provided to pre-school children in different rooms, a qualified pre-school leader must be present in all the rooms.  For example, if the programme is being delivered to 14 children in one room, and to 15 children in another room, there must be a pre-school leader and a pre-school assistant in both rooms.

The staff ratios outlined above apply to the sessional pre-school element of the service only, and only where all of the children in question are within the eligible age-range (i.e. where the children are between the ages of 2.5 years and 6 years).
Outside of the pre-school session, providers must apply the staff ratios in respect of full-time, part-time or sessional services as outlined in the Child Care (Pre-School Services) (No 2) Regulations 2006.

Space/area ratios per child

In order to allow for the implementation of the new adult:child ratios, a new space/area requirement of 1.818m2 per child applies. This allows service providers to cater for additional children. 
The space/area requirement per child in all other instances remains unchanged.

Sanitary Accommodation

Where service providers are in a position to apply the new adult:child ratios outlined above, the number of WC/WHBs required will also change in line with the new ratios, i.e. for every 11 toilet-using children there must be 1 toilet and 1 wash hand basin.

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2.8    Closure of services, moving premises, or transfer of ownership

Closure of service

Where a participating pre-school service closes in the course of a pre-school year, the provider must notify the Department, Pobal and the local CCC immediately.  The CCC will advise in relation to placing the children in another service.  Any funding that has already been paid to the closing service for providing the pre-school year for a period beyond the date of closure must be repaid to the Department.  Capitation fees in respect of any children transferring to a new service will be transferred to the new service with effect from the date the child commences in that service.


Moving premises

Where a participating pre-school service moves premises in the course of a pre-school year, the provider must notify the Department, Pobal and the local CCC immediately.  The Department, Pobal and the CCC will require details of the new address and any changes in other contact details, such as telephone number or e-mail address.  A new contract will issue to the provider.  As a new reference number will be assigned to the service, all children must be registered as having left the old service and registered in the new service, even where all of the children are transferring to the new premises.  The relevant Child Leaving ECCE Programme and Parent Declaration forms must be retained by the service for inspection.

Change of Ownership

Where there is a change of ownership of a service in the course of a pre-school year, this change must be notified to the DCYA, Pobal and the local CCC immediately.  A Change of Ownership / Service form must be completed, requiring input from and the signatures of both the original owner and the new owner.  In addition, the new owner must complete an ECCE application form and be approved for entry to the programme.  This process must be completed through the local CCC.  On approval, a new contract will be issued to the new owner.  As a new reference number will be assigned to the service, all children must be registered having left the old service and registered in the new service, even where all of the children are transferring to the new service.  The relevant Child Leaving ECCE Programme and Parent Declaration forms must be retained by the service for inspection.

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2.9    Optional Additional Charges

 It is a fundamental principle of the ECCE programme that participating service providers must operate the pre-school provision free to parents in return for the applicable capitation fee, and parents should be given access to the service where their child only attends the pre-school element.  However, service providers may charge parents for optional additional services as follows:
* hours which are additional to the free Pre-School Year requirement.  A sessional service provider may offer an additional 30 minutes per day as an optional addition which can be charged for.  In the case of a full or part-time service, the service provider will offer additional hours to the pre-school provision which they will charge for.  A full day care or a part-time service may choose to give a free pre-school place to a child who will be availing of a full or part-time place over another child who only wishes to avail of the free pre-school element of the service, or may choose to only provide the free pre-school service to children attending either full-time or part-time, as applicable.  This information should be included in the service’s Enrolment Policy.
* optional additional services can also take the form of various one-off or on-going activities or services such as outings, specific teaching resources such as dance or music, and food, but must not include activities which would generally be regarded as a normal part of a pre-school service, e.g. general arts and crafts activities.
In all cases, service providers must ensure that parents are aware that their agreement to additional hours or to any optional charge is not compulsory, and that agreement to additional hours or optional charges is not a condition of initial or continued enrolment (except in the case of full-time or part-time services as outlined above).  In addition, appropriate programme-based activities must be provided to children not participating in an optional activity where such activities take place during the required period of pre-school provision.
Booking deposits may be taken from parents provided that the required deposit does not exceed four times the weekly capitation fee applicable to the service, and provided it is repaid to parents by the end of October of the pre-school year the child is participating in where the child has been confirmed as being entitled to participate in the programme).
The service provider may seek voluntary donations from parents, provided that such donations are not a condition of enrolment in the ECCE programme, and are anonymous.
ECCE Fees Policy
Service providers must complete a Fee Payment Policy, which gives details of all the charges applicable in their service.  This policy must be approved by the local CCC.  Compliance with the policy will be checked as part of Pobal’s on-site compliance visits.
The Guide to completing the ECCE fees policy, which will be sent to participating service providers by the local CCC, includes details relating to the rules governing optional additional charges and voluntary donations.

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3.    Eligibility Criteria


Children qualify for the free pre-school year where they are aged more than 3 years 2 months and less than 4 years 7 months at 1 September in the relevant pre-school year.  This means that children born between 2 February 2010 and 30 June 2011 (both dates inclusive) will qualify for the programme in September 2014.

To avail of the programme at any stage during the pre-school year commencing

Children must have been born between the following dates
(both dates inclusive)

September 2014

2 February 2010 and 30 June 2011

September 2015

2 February 2011 and 30 June 2012

The objective of the ECCE programme is to make early learning in a formal setting available to eligible children in the year before they commence primary school.  To achieve this, services participating in the pre-school year are required to provide age-appropriate activities and programmes to children within a particular age cohort.  For this reason, it is necessary to set minimum and maximum limits to the age range within which children will qualify to participate in the programme.

There are no exceptions to the lower age-limit.


The upper age limit of 4 years 6 months may be extended where a child is not in a position to commence primary school until s/he is more than 5 years 7 months of age, due either to the enrolment policy of the local school or because s/he has been assessed as developmentally delayed.  Applications for an extension of the upper age limit will be examined on a case-by-case basis (see Section 8 of this Guide for more details).


Please note that under the Education and Welfare Act 2000 all children must be enrolled in a primary school by the time they reach their 6th birthday.  Therefore, a child who will reach the age of 6 in the course of the pre-school year commencing September 2014 will not be permitted to participate in the ECCE programme.  Parents should contact their local primary school or Special Education Needs Organiser (www.ncse.ie).


Each eligible child is entitled to one free pre-school year, which must be availed of in one continuous provision (e.g. from September 2014 to June 2015).  Children with special needs may avail of a pro-rata provision over two years, provided they fulfill certain conditions (see Section 8 of this Guide for more details).
The eligibility of each child enrolled in the ECCE programme will be verified by reference to the child’s date of birth and Irish Personal Public Services Number (PPSN).  It is in the interest of service providers to request proof of a child’s date of birth and Irish PPSN, as any errors in these details at the child registration stage will result in payments being delayed.  Proof of a child’s Irish PPSN can take the form of a copy of an official document or card showing the child’s name and Irish PPSN, e.g. a Drug Payment Scheme card, a Medical Card, or a letter from the Department of Social Protection.


The Department of Education and Skills provides an Early Start programme for pre-school children at risk of educational disadvantage.  Eligible children may be enrolled in either the Early Start programme or the ECCE programme.  Children are not eligible to be enrolled in both programmes.

Where a child who would be eligible for the ECCE programme is availing of the Home Tuition programme implemented by the Department of Education and Skills, the child may also be entitled to avail of some hours under the ECCE programme.  The parent should contact DCYA to check the position.

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4.    Electronic Returns

 
On Friday 13th June 2014, the first notification of the new Programmes Implementation Platform (PIP), for September 2014 was sent out by local CCCs to all service providers.  See link to PIP News item on the Pobal website.


PIP is a new online system which will streamline the administrative processes across the three national childcare funding programmes (ECCE, CETS and CCS).  A dedicated PIP Homepage has been set up on the Pobal Website which will provide regular updates and supports to childcare providers as the new system is rolled out.  


Details of the procedures relating to on-line registration will be provided in the near future via PIP.

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5.    Compliance

Services participating in the ECCE programme must permit representatives and agents of the Department to visit the facility and inspect financial and other records for the purpose of confirming the service’s compliance with the Terms and Conditions of the programme.  All such inspections will be unannounced.  In addition, the Parent Declaration Forms will include provision for the parent to agree that a representative or agent of the Department may contact him/her to discuss issues regarding the delivery of the programme to their child.  Such issues may include the notification to parents of optional additional charges, or the pattern of attendance of their child.

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6.    Applications to waive the upper age limiti and for pro-rata arrangements for children with special needs

Parents may choose to transfer thChildren with special needs


Parents who wish to apply for a waiver of the upper age limit or to avail of the pre-school year on a pro-rata basis over two years (e.g. 2 days per week in year 1 and 3 days per week in year 2) on the grounds that their child has special needs, must apply in writing to the DCYA not later than 1st July of each year.

The DCYA will require the following details before making a decision:
i) a copy of the child's Birth Certificate or Passport
ii) evidence of the child’s Irish PPSN (i.e. a copy of an official document or card showing the child’s name and Irish PPSN, e.g. a Drug Payment Scheme card, a Medical Card, or a letter from the Department of Social Protection).
iii) the name and address of the pre-school service in which the child will be enrolled,
AND
(iv) a detailed assessment report from the HSE, or treating consultant confirming that the child has special needs which will either delay his/her entry to primary school or make it more suitable that s/he avails of the pre-school year on a pro-rata basis over two years.

School admission policies

Parents may apply for a waiver of the upper age limit where their child will not be able to commence primary school until they are aged at least 5 years and 7 months, due to the local primary schools' admissions policies, on condition that the child has not already availed of the ECCE Programme.


Applications should be made to the DCYA not later than 1st July each year.  The DCYA will require the following details before making a decision:
i) a copy of the child's Birth Certificate or Passport
ii) evidence of the child’s Irish PPSN (i.e. a copy of an official document or card showing the child’s name and Irish PPSN, e.g. a Drug Payment Scheme card, a Medical Card, or a letter from the Department of Social Protection).
iii) the name and address of the pre-school service in which the child will be enrolled,
AND
(iv) a letter from the Principal of the local primary school confirming the age admissions policy.

Please note that under the Education and Welfare Act 2000 all children must be enrolled in a primary school by the time they reach their 6th birthday.  Therefore, a child who will reach the age of 6 in the course of the pre-school year commencing September 2014 will not be permitted to participate in the ECCE programme.  Parents should contact their local primary school or Special Education Needs Organiser (www.ncse.ie).

Early Years Policies and Programmes
Department of Children and Youth Affairs
July 2014

 

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  7. Forms

EFT Form - New Applicants to the DCYA child care programmes form

EFT Form - Change in Bank Details for providers already participating in DCYA child care programmes form

Change of Ownership / Service form

City/County Childcare Committees (CCCs)

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