The government will close the existing childcare vouchers scheme for new entrants from April 2018 as part of the transition to the new system of tax-free childcare. I share concerns that have been raised by constituents who fear that some parents could lose out.
The Childcare Voucher Providers Association (CVPA) has suggested that only 7 per cent of the parents expected to sign up to tax-free childcare by April 2018 will have done so. The CPVA notes that this is particularly alarming given the plans to close access to childcare vouchers, which risks hundreds of thousands of parents being left with no childcare support at all.
The government admits that applications for tax-free childcare accounts have been lower than expected, but claims that the new scheme is fairer and better targeted than vouchers.
At the 2017 General Election I stood on a manifesto which committed to overhaul the existing childcare system in which subsidies are given directly to parents who often struggle to use them, and move to a system that provides high-quality childcare places in mixed environments with direct government subsidy. It also pledged to phase in subsidised provision on top of free-hour entitlements, to ensure everyone has access to affordable childcare, no matter their working pattern. The manifesto further committed to extend 30 free hours to all two-year-olds, and move towards making some childcare available for one-year-olds and extending maternity pay to 12 months.
The government should recognise the contribution made by working mums and dads to the economy, society and government finances by not removing this crucial support.
The issue was debated in Westminster Hall on January 15 this year, when the government minister John Glen offered an apology to parents who had experienced problems and said that HMRC had also made apologies for its mistakes. I will continue to follow this issue closely.