National Childcare Scheme (NCS)

The National Childcare Scheme offers financial help to every child in Ireland. It offers both universal and income-related subsidies for children up to the age of 15. It also provides an innovative and user-friendly online application process to access those subsidies.

Through all of the above, the National Childcare Scheme aims to improve children’s outcomes, support lifelong learning, make work pay, reduce child poverty and tangibly reduce the cost of quality childcare for thousands of families across Ireland.

Under the National Childcare Scheme, parents use an online application system to apply directly for subsidies.
There are two types of supports available under the Scheme: a Universal subsidy and an Income Assessed subsidy.

Universal Subsidy

Universal subsidies are available to all families with children between 24 weeks and 15 years of age. This subsidy is not means tested and provides €1.40 per hour towards the cost of a registered childcare place for a maximum of 45 hours per week.

What you will need to apply online:

  • A verified MyGovID account
  • The date of birth and Personal Public Service Number (PPSN) for each of the children you are applying for

Income Assessed

Income Assessed Subsidies are available to families with children aged between 24 weeks and 15 years. This subsidy is means tested and will be calculated based on your individual circumstances. Your rate will vary depending on your level of family income, your child’s age and educational stage, and the number of children in your family.

If you (and your partner, if you have one) are working, studying or training, the maximum number of subsidised hours available per week are 45.

If you (or your partner, if you have one) are not working, studying or training, the maximum number of subsidised hours available per week are 20.

Your subsidy can be used outside of school or ECCE hours, for example:

  • childcare used before preschool or school starts in the morning (e.g. breakfast club)
  • after-school childcare
  • childcare used outside of preschool or school term weeks

What you will need to apply online:

  • A verified MyGovID account
  • Your children’s information such as date of birth and PPSN
  • Your employment and income related details
  • Your partner’s PPSN**
  • Your partner’s employment and income related details**

**if you are a member of a couple

To see what you might be eligible for you can use the Childcare Subsidy Calculator.

Sponsor Referral

The NCS makes special arrangements for vulnerable children and families, a referral is required from a Sponsor Body for a Sponsor Referral.

Section 14 of the Childcare Support Act 2018 allows special arrangements where a child can be referred by certain Statutory Organisations for an NCS subsidy where childcare is needed on child welfare, child protection, family support or other specified grounds. There are strict criteria applicable for a referral to be made. The need for a referral is determined by the relevant Sponsor Body and their decision is based on the particular need of the child in line with their defined criteria.

NCS Sponsors Team can be contacted Mon-Fri 9am-5pm by phone 01 906 8535 or email

The NCS website also includes the NCS Subsidy Calculator; a useful tool to help you estimate how much subsidy you may be eligible to apply for.

How the Subsidies will work

The National Childcare Scheme is designed to be flexible, recognising that childcare needs are different for each family. Subsidies are awarded as an hourly rate, along with a maximum number of hours for which this rate is payable. The award is then broken up into segments, which show any changes to the subsidy rate and hours over the course of the year, such as a change in the child’s age or educational stage.

The hourly rate of subsidy illustrates to parents their level of subsidy. Parents and providers will continue to work together as they currently do to decide on the hours of childcare that are needed and can be provided. These hours are a combination of what a parent needs and what a provider can reasonably offer. Providers will continue to set their own fees, sessions and admissions policies. The hours of childcare available to parents are solely at the discretion of each provider. The hourly subsidy rate can be applied to the hours agreed between the parent and provider. Where these hours are the same as the maximum hours available to the parent under their subsidy award, all of the hours of care will be subsidised.

For example, where a parent has been awarded 45 hours and has agreed 45 hours of childcare with their provider, then all 45 hours will be subsidised. Where the hours agreed are greater than the maximum hours available to the parent under their subsidy award, the remaining hours of care will be unsubsidised and paid for in full by the parent.

Where a referral is made by a sponsor body, the family will automatically qualify for a subsidy without having to satisfy the Scheme’s eligibility, income or maximum hour requirements. Details on the operation of sponsored referrals are available on the website

Subsidies will typically be awarded on a yearly basis. Providers and parents will receive a notification alerting them when a subsidy is due for renewal. If either a parent or a provider is not satisfied with, for example, a subsidy award or the amount of the subsidy paid in respect of a child, the parent or provider, as appropriate, will have the right to have the decision reviewed by an officer of the Scheme Administrator.

If they are still not satisfied following the outcome of the review, they will have a further right of appeal for details available on the website

The National Childcare Scheme Parent Support Centre

Is open Monday to Friday from 9am to 5pm Telephone: 01 906 8530.

Complaints Form

If you have a query please contact us on 01 4851727 or   

But if you have a complaint please fill in the form below. Staff are trained to answer your queries/complaints and every effort is made to resolve them promptly and efficiently. We endeavour to get back to you within 48 hours.