Children from birth to five whose parents are homeless will be eligible for the new entitlement.
Families in the Dublin region, where 2,110 children are listed as homeless, will be the first to benefit from the free entitlement next month, with other areas expected to follow.
The initiative is supported by Government funding of 8.25 million euros.
Making the announcement, the minister for children and youth affairs Dr Katherine Zappone, said, 'This is an important initiative targeting a particularly vulnerable group of children who need additional support given their situation.
'The provision of up to 25 hours of free childcare a week to include a daily meal will lift a huge burden from families.
'The scheme is also designed to help those transitioning from homelessness to permanent accommodation.'
She added, 'I have asked officials to start identifying families who qualify and inform them of this new entitlement.'
Currently, childcare subsidies exist for disadvantaged families in Ireland, while all children become eligible for the free pre-school year once they turn three.
Early Childhood Ireland welcomed the move, but raised concern over the amount of funding allocated to the initiative.
Chief executive Theresa Heeney said, 'On initial glance the capitation level appears low at 110 euros for 25 hours weekly including meals daily. What we would expect with an age range from birth to five years old is a tiered approach for such a scheme, which must reflect the different cost of providing services across the age groups in-line with the higher ratios of carer to child for babies, versus toddlers, versus four-year-olds.
'We are confident that consultation with our members and the Department of Children and Youth Affairs will result in plans to resolve any outstanding details.'
Early Years Sector Profile
A new report published at the end of last month found more pre-school children are taking up their free place.
The Early Years Sector Profile, which provides an overview of the 4,300 childcare settings in Ireland, shows between September 2015 and June 2016, 73,964 children enrolled in the Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) free pre-school year - an increase of 13 per cent on the previous year.
It follows increased Government spending on the ECCE scheme, which as of September 2017 will be replaced by a Single Affordable Childcare Scheme.
Other key findings of the report include:
- an estimated 171,200 children were enrolled in an early years setting in April 2016;
- the cost of a full-time place has fallen by 16 per cent since 2014/15;
- around 25,700 staff work in the childcare sector, half of which are employed on a part-time basis;
- almost half of settings (48 per cent) reported having at least one child with a diagnosed disability in their care.