The government has agreed to delay the closure of the workplace childcare voucher system for six months.
Damian Hinds (pictured), the Secretary of State for Education and member of Parliament (MP) for East Hampshire, confirmed at the House of Commons yesterday (Tuesday 13 March 2018) that the April deadline for the abolition of employer-supported childcare vouchers would be extended for a further six months.
The removal of workplace childcare vouchers is to make way for the government’s tax-free childcare scheme, which was introduced from April 2017. The tax-free childcare policy will provide parents with children under the age of 12 up to £2,000 a year per child to help cover childcare costs.
In response to concerns raised by Labour representatives regarding whether families would potentially have to pay some childcare costs upfront, Hinds stated that the government’s flexible support fund would be equipped to help in certain situations. The flexible support fund aids individuals who receive a qualifying benefit, such as universal credit, and can be put towards childcare costs.
Hinds, a member of the Conservative party, said: “I have heard the concerns that have been raised about this and the timing, and I can confirm that we will be able to keep the voucher scheme open for a further six months to new entrants.
“Tax-free childcare will mean that more people become eligible, regardless of who their employer is and including for the first time the self-employed.”
Jacquie Mills, chair at the Childcare Voucher Providers Association (CVPA), said: “We were delighted to see the breadth of support for the childcare voucher scheme across political parties yesterday. Support that reflects the 119,000 members of the public that signed a petition to keep the childcare voucher scheme open.
“The childcare vouchers scheme is an essential lifeline to many parents and is hundreds of pounds more generous than tax-free childcare for those on middle and lower incomes. We have been strong advocates for keeping childcare vouchers open alongside tax-free childcare so that parents can make an informed choice about the childcare support that best suits their needs.
“We are pleased that the government has delayed the closure of the scheme for six months and we hope that this will allow them to realise the benefits of giving parents a choice and lead to a permanent running of both schemes.”
Angela Rayner, Labour party MP and Shadow Education Secretary, added: “Due to Labour’s pressure, the Conservatives have now been forced to delay closing the childcare vouchers scheme for at least another six months. Theresa May clearly now has neither a majority nor a mandate for abolishing childcare vouchers and must bring any final decision back to Parliament for a meaningful vote.
“Tory and [Democratic Unionist Party] MPs may have forced through changes that will hit the poorest families the hardest, but Labour will continue fighting for decent childcare and opposing the Tories’ decision to deny free school meals to up to a million of England’s most deprived children.
“The next Labour government will extend childcare provision and provide free school meals for all primary school children.”