Minister O’Gorman announces details of €331 million in funding for early learning and childcare services

From Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth 

Published on 2 July 2024

Last updated on 2 July 2024

  • Details of Core Funding Year 3 will see €331 million in funding provided directly to early learning and childcare services, a €44 million or 15% increase on Year 2.
  • Vast majority of services will see at least a 3.5% increase in funding for capacity, with larger increases for places offered to children under the age of three.
  • Further increases in funding for small and sessional services.

Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth, Roderic O’Gorman, today announced details of Year 3 of Core Funding worth €331 million, which will run from September 2024 to August 2025. This is an increase of €44 million (15%) on the current programme year. This funding will accompany new developments to the scheme rules to support services as well as children and their families.

First introduced in 2022, Core Funding is a grant to early learning and childcare providers towards their operating costs, and in return for significant investment, services agree to conditions of the scheme, including fee management and financial transparency.

The new developments for Year 3 of Core Funding will include:

• An increase to the flat rate top-up for sessional-only services to €5,000 per service (currently €4,075);

• An increase to the minimum amount of funding a centre-based service will receive to €14,000 per year (currently €8,150);

• An increase to the base rate allocation per place offered across all age groups, with larger increases for children under three years old; and

• Funding to support capacity growth of almost 6% across the sector.

In addition, the maximum allocation for service under the scheme will be capped at €500,000.

Accompanying changes to the allocation model, the Minister is making changes to the Fee Management System under Core Funding from September.

For the third year of the scheme, the effective freeze on fees will be maintained. A new feature of Core Funding in Year 3 will allow some services to apply for a fee increase within Core Funding, where appropriate. Where this occurs, National Childcare Scheme subsidies will ensure that no increase in out-of-pocket costs will be felt by parents/guardians.

In addition, from September there will be a maximum fee permitted under Core Funding for new services joining Core Funding for the first time. A cap on fees will extend to all services in contract for Core Funding from September 2025 (Year 4). Information on what these changes mean for parents will be available at

Welcoming the announcement, Minister O’Gorman said:

“I am delighted to be in a position to increase Core Funding to Partner Services for Year 3. The increases I am announcing today will take effect in September 2024 and will support expanded capacity, particularly capacity for children under three and stability of income to services, particularly low-income services. Since its introduction, I have pledged to grow Core Funding and I have delivered on that. ”

The Minister added:

“In addition, the developments around fee management will ensure that, where needed, services will be able to make a permanent step towards a more stable financial position without compromising on overall affordability for parents/guardians.”

“I am hopeful these enhancements combined will pave the way for further negotiations to improve pay by the independent Joint Labour Committee”.

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Note for Editors:

Core Funding is one of the funding streams that make up Together for Better, the state funding model for the early learning and childcare sector. Together for Better brings together Core Funding, the National Childcare Scheme (NCS), Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE), the Access and Inclusion Model (AIM) and the newly announced Equal Start.

Core Funding aims to improve affordability, quality, inclusion and sustainability. It also supports the development of a partnership between providers (Partner Services) and the State that reflects the importance of early learning and childcare in serving the public good.

Core Funding is a grant to early learning and childcare providers toward their operating costs, and in return for significant investment, Partner Services agree to conditions pf the scheme including fee management and financial transparency.

The grant is made up of three elements:

1. The Base Rate, which is based on the service’s staffed capacity – the opening hours, operating weeks, the age group for whom services are provided, and the number of places available. Places do not need to be filled, but the correct staff as set out in the regulations must be in place.

2. The Graduate Premiums, which provide funding to support graduate-led provision and is based on the number of graduate Lead Educators or graduate Managers in a service and the hours worked by these staff.

3. Targeted measures which include a flat rate top up for sessional-only services, a minimum and maximum allocation. These targeted elements channel additional support towards small and sessional services.

All bar two services will see a minimum increase of 3.5% in funding for their staffed capacity. The two exceptions are Partner Services in receipt of the highest levels of funding for capacity, and will see a small reduction in line with the new maximum allocation of €500,000.

In Programme Year 3 (September 2024 – August 2025), in addition to the fee freeze, Partner Services charging the lowest fees will have the opportunity to be assessed for a fee increase within Core Funding. In addition, there will be a maximum fee for First Time Partner Services. These are new services that are applying to Core Funding for the first time in the 2024/25 programme year.

These services will have to set their fees to at least the maximum laid out below, based on the hours of care that the fee purchases. A cap on fees will apply to all Partner Services from September 2025 (Year 4). The local City/County Childcare Committees are available to support parents/guardians and providers in understanding this change.

Table 1: Fee Structure Bands

Fee BandHours per weekMax. Fee €
Band ALess than 10 hours€65
Band BBetween 10 hours and 19 hours 59 minutes€130
Band CBetween 20 hours and 29 hours 59 minutes€195
Band DBetween 30 hours and 39 hours 59 minutes€260
Band EBetween 40 hours and 49 hours 59 minutes€325
Band F50 or more hours€390

Further information is available at , including an overview of changes for providers and parents. A list of current Partner Services is also available at this site.

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