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The Treasury Select Committee, which is chaired by former education secretary Nicky Morgan, has launched a new inquiry into how childcare can affect the economy.
The committee of cross-party MPs will consider the overall set of Government initiatives that aim to make childcare affordable (Tax-Free Childcare, childcare vouchers and 30 hours’ free childcare), and whether they have delivered an adequate provision of affordable childcare that facilitates parental employment.
The committee will also scrutinise the processes around how childcare schemes are delivered, including past failures of the Childcare Service website which left thousands of parents unable to apply for the 30 hours funded scheme.
Commenting on the launch of the inquiry, Ms Morgan, Treasury Committee chair, said: "High-quality and affordable childcare is important for getting parents into work and supporting working families. The Treasury Committee will look at how it delivers benefits to the economy and supports labour productivity and participation. We’ll also look at the effectiveness of Government initiatives at making childcare accessible and affordable.”
She added: “There had been reports of problems with the HMRC-run Childcare Service website, which has been a cause for concern. We’ll examine the impact of these failures on the take-up of Government initiatives that aim to make childcare affordable.”
The Childcare Service website was launched in April for parents to apply for Tax-Free Childcare and 30 hours of funded childcare. However, parents reported repeated technical problems on the site, including failed log ins and misplaced applications.
With thousands of parents and childcare providers adversely affected by the glitches, many from the sector called for HMRC to do more and said compensating parents was ‘not enough’. In total, the Childcare Service website received 1,507 complaints.
Future-proofing childcare policy
Some of the questions the Committee will consider throughout the inquiry include:
• What impact is a lack of access to affordable childcare having on the ability of parents to enter into employment?
• What proportion of parents are struggling to find affordable and high-quality childcare?
• Have all eligible applicants for the 30-hour free childcare entitlement received the benefit?
• Has the Government provided sufficient funding for the 30-hour free childcare scheme?
• What other measures could the Government implement to ensure that the childcare market provides an affordable and high-quality offer that supports parental employment (should further childcare support be provided to parents on apprenticeships or other training schemes)?
The first evidence session of this inquiry will be on 31 January.