One of the concerns that constituents regularly raise with me is the cost of childcare. British parents face the highest childcare costs in the world with the exception of Switzerland. Research by Family Investments found that mothers in England working full time need to work for four months of the year just to break even on their childcare costs.
So today's announcement that from autumn 2015 the Government will meet up to £1,200 of childcare costs for each child initially under 5 and eventually under 12 is very welcome. Once implemented, it should benefit 2.5 million families.
Details of the new system will be set out following consultation, but the idea is that parents will be able to open an online voucher account with a voucher provider and have their payments topped up by Government. For every 80p families pay in, the Government will put in 20p up to the annual limit on costs for each child. Parents will be able to use the vouchers for any Ofsted regulated childcare provider. To be eligible, both parents have to be working with neither earning more than £150,000 a year or already receiving support through tax credits/Universal Credit or Employer Supported Childcare Vouchers.
This announcement builds on action the Government has already taken/is already taking, including:
- increasing the entitlement to free early education for all 3 and 4 year olds from 12.5 to 15 hours a week;
- extending 15 hours of free childcare a week to 40 per cent of 2 year olds from 2014-15;
- extending childcare support in Universal Credit to parents working fewer than 16 hours; and
- enabling childcare providers to cut their prices by allowing highly qualified staff to care for more children if they wish to.
Hopefully there will be more measures like this to help working families in tomorrow's Budget!