Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE)
The Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) scheme is a universal childcare programme with the stated objective of providing children with their first formal experience of early learning. The programme is delivered to children of pre-school age (2 years 8 months to 5 years 6 months) prior to commencing primary school.
From September 2018, all children within the relevant age bracket will be entitled to 76 weeks of the scheme (2 full academic years). The ECCE programme is provided for 3 hours per day, 5 days per week over 38 weeks per year. The programme generally runs in line with the primary school year, which is September to June.
Pobal provides a range of services in respect of ECCE on behalf of the Department of Children and Youth Affairs (DCYA), including contracting approved providers, administering child registrations, and processing payments to service providers. Pobal also undertakes annual compliance visits ensuring childcare providers are adhering to the stated terms of the programme.
A capitation rate is paid directly to participating childcare services by Pobal. There is no charge to parents for the childcare hours provided under the ECCE scheme. However, if a child attends for extra hours outside of ECCE, then charges for the extra time will apply.
Approximately 100,000 children benefit from the ECCE programme annually, which is delivered through both private and community (not-for-profit) childcare providers. Over 4,000 service providers are contracted nationally to offer the ECCE programme and details of participating services can be found on Pobal Maps. Further information in relation to the ECCE scheme, including an age eligibility chart, can be found on the DCYA website.