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More than 100,000 people have signed a petition calling for Childcare Vouchers to be kept open alongside Tax-Free Childcare (TFC), meaning the issue will be considered for debate in Parliament.
Childcare Vouchers are currently used by 780,000 parents but Government plans to close the scheme to new entrants — from April next year — could see thousands of parents lose out by hundreds of pounds or find themselves unable to claim any support at all.
The petition, set up by Ellie Symonds-Lloyd on the UK Government and Parliament website, says that voucher schemes should be kept open alongside TFC to give parents a ‘genuine choice for the support that best suits their family.’ It has now reached 103,043 signatures.
Commenting on the petition, Childcare Voucher Providers Association (CVPA) chair Jacquie Mills, said: “Theresa May made clear that ordinary working families would be the foundation of her domestic policy. We support this, which is why we think its essential Childcare Vouchers remains open alongside Tax-Free Childcare.
“We want parents to have a choice over the vital childcare support that best suits their families, so they can continue to contribute to our economy and society.”
Following a survey carried out by CVPA in August of over 350 employers and over 18,000 parents, 93 per cent of employers and 98 per cent of parents wanted Childcare Vouchers to be kept open in parallel with TFC.
The decision to close Childcare Vouchers to new joiners was made by the Coalition Government in 2012 when tax-free childcare was introduced as an alternative system of childcare support. However, there has been widespread concern about the policy for several reasons:
• The Childcare Voucher scheme is ‘progressive, structured’ so that those paying the basic rate of tax can claim more than those paying a higher rate
• The Department for Education has calculated that the average family could be up to £1,463 worse off each year
• There are also concerns that TFC has a regressive element with the average family in London set to receive £905 a year while the average family in the north east would only receive £317.
A Treasury response on the petition states: “The Government is committed to supporting working families and is investing more in childcare than ever before. Tax free childcare is one part of that increased childcare support, and everyone who earns at least £120 per week on average, but doesn’t exceed the upper income limit of £100,000 per annum can apply for the scheme, which is fairer and better targeted than vouchers.
“Tax-Free Childcare will be available to over two million households to help with the cost of childcare, enabling more parents to go out to work if they want to. Working parents will be able to apply via an online childcare account, and access up to £2,000 per child (or £4,000 for disabled children).
“The system is fairer and better targeted than vouchers, which are only offered by a minority of employers and self-employed parents are unable to access them. Tax-free childcare benefits parents whose employer doesn’t offer vouchers and the self-employed. It’s also fairer: support will be paid per child rather than per parent, so lone parent households will get the same support as those with more than one parent.”