Childcare vouchers closure caused 84% of working parents to rethink career

More than four-fifths (84%) of working parents have had to reconsider their future career plans following the closure of the government’s childcare vouchers scheme to new entrants in October 2018, according to research by the Childcare Voucher Providers Association (CVPA).

The research canvassed the views of 17,000 parents currently using the scheme, 964 parents unable to sign up for childcare vouchers following the closure to new entrants, 808 employers and 1,130 childcare providers. It also found that 40% of working parents would be less likely to return to work following the closure of the scheme.

Among those currently benefiting from the childcare voucher programme, 98% stated that they were happy with their experience.

In comparison, 60% of respondents who had signed up for tax-free childcare, provided by the UK government as an alternative to childcare vouchers, noted that their experience had been unclear or confusing. Only one-fifth (20%) found the new scheme easy to use.

Jacquie Mills, chair of the CVPA, said: “The voices of parents coming through our survey couldn’t be clearer: childcare support has to provide flexibility and choice, allowing parents the opportunity to decide what works best for them.

“It also needs to break down the barriers to career progression, extending opportunities to working parents, and enabling employers to attract the talent they need.

“Finally, it has to be simple and effective, that’s why we still support reopening the childcare voucher scheme. This would be the best option to achieve all these aims, aligning with the government’s objectives to support working families and helping businesses thrive.”

Among employer respondents, 60% stated that they had found there to be higher satisfaction among employees accessing childcare vouchers, compared to those using tax-free childcare.

The vast majority of respondents (97%) would support the reopening of childcare vouchers to new entrants.

Jane van Zyl, chief executive officer at Working Families, said: “This report confirms that the closure of the childcare voucher scheme is bad for employers and bad for parents. The government’s decision to close the scheme was disappointing, not least because in the workplace, vouchers allowed employers to start conversations with parents about their family-friendly working policies and practice more broadly.

“Working Families continues to call for childcare vouchers to reopen, running alongside tax-free childcare, to allow parents the maximum amount of choice and enable them to choose the scheme that offers them the most support and helps them balance work and caring for their children in the way that works best for their families.”

Aoife Hamilton, policy and information manager at Employers for Childcare, added: “Parents tell us every day about the challenges they face in paying for the childcare they need to allow them to go to work, with many questioning their ability to work at all. Closing childcare vouchers has, for many families, increased this challenge, with some receiving less support and others missing out entirely.

“Families should have access to the form of childcare support that best suits their individual circumstances, which is why we are calling for a comprehensive and flexible package of childcare support for parents that includes tax-free childcare and childcare vouchers.

“Re-opening the childcare voucher scheme to new entrants is a policy that is aligned with the government’s objectives, clearly has widespread support from parents, employers, and childcare providers and will be straightforward to implement [because] the necessary infrastructure is already in place, with the scheme continuing to be available for existing beneficiaries.”