Childcare in Ireland

If you’re moving to Ireland with children, or are thinking about starting a family in the next few years, you’ll be glad to hear that parents in Ireland are supported through Child Benefit and the Free Pre-school Year. Parental leave options have increased, and with various types of childcare to choose from, you’ll be sure to find a childcare option that works for your family.


Parental Leave in Ireland

According to the Parental Leave Act (Amendment) 2006, parents in Ireland are entitled to 18 weeks of parental leave per child. This applies to children up to 8 years old (but this can be extended for a child adopted after the age of 8, or a child up to the age of 16 who has a long-term illness). Both parents are entitled to their own separate leave. Leave must be taken all at once, or in two blocks (6-week minimum each), and there must be a gap of at least 10 weeks between blocks.

Maternity benefit in Ireland is available to employed women who have earned enough PRSI contributions. This payment is made for 26 weeks at a rate of €230. Maternity Benefit must start between 2 and 16 weeks before the birth of a baby. A further 16 weeks of unpaid maternity leave may also be taken. To be eligible for Maternity Benefit, you typically need to have worked at least 39 weeks in the current tax year and 39 weeks in the previous year. If you have been insurably employed in another country under EU regulations, you may be able to combine your insurance contributions in that country with your PRSI.

Paternity Benefit in Ireland was introduced in Ireland from September 2016 at a weekly rate of €230 for 2 weeks. Many employers may also offer periods of fully paid maternity and paternity leave at their own discretion, whereby employees receive their usual wages and their PRSI-funded benefit is paid directly to the employer.

Child Benefit

If you’re legally living and working in Ireland and have a child under 18 years of age who’s in full-time education, you may be entitled to receive Child Benefit, a welfare payment of €140 per child per month. Applications should be made within 12 months of a) your child moving to Ireland or b) your child being born/joining the family.

Types of Childcare in Ireland

There are numerous kinds of childcare available in Ireland to suit every family’s needs. The most common providers of childcare are childminders. Childminders are self-employed and take care of children in the childminder’s home. There is a limit on the number of children they can mind at any one time.

Nurseries and creches are usually larger centres with many employees which provide supervised play along with structured nap and meal times. Play schools and Montessori schools prepare young children for primary school, with a focus on informal learning. While some day care centres provide a combination of the above types of childcare services.

In addition, a small number of families in Ireland hire professional nannies or au pairs to provide at home or live-in care. Nannies should hold a qualification in childcare as well as first aid training. Au pairs usually provide childcare and some light household duties in exchange for accommodation, meals, and a weekly allowance.

For older school-age children, you may also be able to avail of breakfast clubs, after-school clubs, and school holiday programmes such as summer camps in your local area.

Childcare costs

Childcare in Ireland tends to be more expensive than in some other European countries. Rates vary depending on a number of factors including the hours needed, the qualifications of the provider, and the location. As with most services, costs tend to be higher in cities such as Dublin and Cork. However, discounts are often given for additional children. It’s recommended you contact multiple childcare providers in your community to compare prices.

The Free Pre-School Year

The Irish government provides a Free Pre-School Year, which is also known as the Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) Scheme. It’s administered by the Department of Children and Youth Affairs and includes 3 paid hours a day, 5 days a week at participating pre-schools. If your child attends any additional hours, this difference must be paid for by you.

Finding Childcare Options

To find out more about childcare in your area, you can contact your local City or County Council’s Childcare Committee. You can also search for childcare options online through websites such as MindMe, and ChildCareFinder. It’s recommended you visit prospective childcare providers during their working hours to observe and to discuss policies, hours and holiday periods.

Demand for childcare can be high, particularly in more densely populated areas like Dublin, so you should start to make arrangements as soon as possible.