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Busy Bees Benefits, which is part of the Busy Bees Group, is calling on the Childcare Commission, to raise the childcare voucher cap from £55 to £75 to make childcare more affordable for working parents.
The Busy Bees Group, which operates 214 nurseries, is currently running a campaign on the issue called ‘Mind the Gap – Raise the Cap’.
The group believes that because access to affordable, quality childcare helps to get parents into work and out of poverty, childcare vouchers are part of the solution.
Earlier this year, the Childcare Commission asked for ideas and evidence on how to make childcare more affordable for working families and reduce any unnecessary burdens on providers.
In its submission to the Childcare Commission, Busy Bees Benefits pointed out that whilst funding for childcare offered via local authorities is inconsistent and requires a large amount of paperwork, childcare vouchers create little additional work for providers and no work for Government or local authorities.
It asked for existing government policy to be changed to increase the amount a parent can sacrifice from their salary in exchange for childcare vouchers. An increase in the capped amount would help bring registered childcare within the grasp of more middle-income families, it claims.
John Woodward, Busy Bees Group’s chief executive said: “The Childcare Commission provides a golden opportunity to make a real and lasting change to the affordability of childcare for parents who are in work or are considering returning to work.
“As the original customers of our own business, we clearly understand the efforts that parents make to provide a quality early years setting for their children. It is vital that the Childcare Commission encourages moves to make care more affordable rather than reducing the quality of care. Busy Bees Benefits hopes its views will be heard and this chance for change is not missed by government.”
The current Childcare Voucher cap allowance has not been increased since 2006, whilst the cost of childcare has continued to rise. The campaign aims to close the gap between the cost of childcare and the amount of savings available to working parents. A totally uncapped amount would give parents tax-free, registered childcare and a huge incentive to remain in the workplace, according to Busy Bees Benefits.
It also wants the scheme to be extended to the self-employed as the vouchers are currently only available through an employer to employees paid via PAYE.
The work of the commission will be informed by a call for evidence which ran from 19 July to 31 August 2012 and is due to report on its findings in the Autumn.