Parental Choice blogger Sarah-Jane Butler explains childcare vouchers, and whether the new system that’s been put in place to help working parents will be beneficial to all…
When I was asked to write this article about childcare vouchers two weeks ago I had a very clear idea of what I wanted to say. I was going to explain the current employer provided scheme and the new government funded scheme due to start this Autumn. I was going to tell you who would be better off under the new scheme and who should stay with the old.
Then the Supreme Court threw a spanner in the works.
Some companies currently offering employer sponsored childcare vouchers took legal action to challenge the new government scheme which will essentially see them put out of business and, to be honest, who can blame them. Would any of us be happy to lose our jobs or businesses because of a change in government policy?
Whilst the case was ongoing a suspension to the new scheme was put in place and whilst the legal action was lost and the government scheme will go ahead it is now suspended until Autumn 2017. This may not seem like a huge delay to some but if you have young children and your employer doesn’t offer childcare vouchers (which many do not) you have just lost TWO years of support with those costs. At up to £2000 per child per year that leaves a serious hole in the financial planning of many families.
The new scheme is designed to benefit employees directly, helping working parents with their childcare costs, supporting them back into the workplace if they want to and helping them to increase their hours in work. The scheme will only be open to families where both parents are working (or one in single parent families) and it will be open to those who are self-employed.
However, whilst this scheme will benefit many, there are plenty of others who would be better off under the current employer provided voucher scheme. Those currently using the Employer-Supported Childcare scheme will be able to choose to stay in that scheme or move to Tax-Free Childcare however they should calculate carefully before they make a choice.
There have many who asked why both schemes could not run alongside each other and I add my voice to those. Childcare is not a one size fits all issue but the key point across all types of providers is the huge cost to parents. If the government really is serious about getting those mothers who want to work back into the workplace then they are going to have to do more than closing down a current scheme which works well for many and offering what feels like a pipe dream scheme for sometime in the future to others.
So, for now, if you are already in, or can access, an employer supported childcare vouchers scheme take advantage of it for as long as you can. Don’t forget that both parents can purchase vouchers for the same child thereby doubling the benefit to some families. If you can’t access a scheme then unfortunately you are going to have to look towards Autumn 2017 and hope the goalposts don’t move again.
We all know that the more parents we have working the better the economy will be for all of us so come on central government, create an environment where we can work and have our children cared for safely and economically. Other countries manage it, why can’t we?
SARAH-JANE BUTLER JULY 2015, www.parentalchoice.co.uk