There are a number of schemes available to parents and the main scheme which is not means tested is the Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) Scheme. This provides care and education for children of pre-school age. Children can participate in the ECCE scheme from 3 years of age and continue until they start primary school. However, there is a maximum age, children can’t be older than 5 years and 6 months at the end of the pre-school year.


If you believe that it would benefit your child with additional needs to remain in pre-school beyond the maximum age limit then you may be able to get an exemption from the upper age limit for the ECCE Scheme. You will need to speak to your pre-school provider to clarify your personal situation and your child’s needs.

Additional Supports

There is a range of supports for children with special needs. You should speak to your provider on the Access and Inclusion Model (AIM) which was introduced in 2016 for children starting ECCE with additional needs. The model offers tailored, practical supports based on your child. The purpose of AIM is to consult with parents on the best road map for their child, putting in place additional supports to ensure your child’s participation fully in pre-school.


It is free because the State pays the participating playschools directly. In return, they provide a pre-school service free of charge to all children for a set number of hours over a set period of weeks.

If your child wishes to avail of additional hours outside of the allocated ECCE free placement then the child care provider will inform you of the additional cost. In Budget 2016 the government introduced additional funding under the Affordable Childcare Scheme which is a means test scheme. Under the scheme, the State will pay additional fees to preschool providers who in turn should pass on the savings to parents who need additional hours. This should help parents offset the expensive cost of preschool but again it will depend largely on parents’ income.

Non-Means Tested

If you are in receipt of Domiciliary Care Allowance, your child may be able to access a childcare place under either the Community Childcare Subvention (CCS) Scheme or the Childcare Employment and Training Support (CETS) scheme. The childcare service receives an additional subsidy under this scheme which means that they can offer the childcare place at a reduced cost to parents.

More Information

Contact your playschool for information on availability and registration. Check out Access and Inclusion Model website for more information on the supports available to your child https://aim.gov.ie/faqs/ check out the ECCE website for useful tips and advice https://www.earlychildhoodireland.ie/ Pre-School Years