Thursday, 19 July 2012

Childcare Vouchers Pay For Summer Holiday Schemes


The summer holidays are fast approaching; many parents find the forthcoming six weeks a stressful and expensive time.  Parents need to consider how much time they can have off work, what childcare is available and how much childcare and holiday activities will cost.
There are a wide range of childcare options available for the summer holidays, for children of all ages.  There are summer camps, holiday schemes, play groups, child minders, nurseries and out of school clubs. 

All of these are fun and exciting; children can experience activities they would not usually experience.  Sending children to summer camps and holiday schemes will help to encourage children to engage and experience working in groups with new children, take part in events and shows and encourage them to explore and discover new skills.

Knowing there is suitable childcare options will give parents the peace of mind they need when considering summer holiday childcare. However, the cost of sending children to camps and holiday schemes is an important factor.  Did you know you can use your childcare vouchers, taken as a salary sacrifice via your employer, to pay for the cost of most summer childcare options?  Parents can exchange up to £243 per month, which is non-taxable and national insurance exempt, from their salary.  They will then receive childcare vouchers to use to pay for their chosen childcare.

Using childcare vouchers can save working parents up to £933 per year from the cost of their childcare.  Both parents can join a childcare voucher scheme, increasing potential savings to over £1800 per year.  Be money savvy; if you intend to send your child to a camp or holiday scheme in the following year, you can save up childcare vouchers to pay for the costs.

Do you want to save more?
Busy Bees are campaigning to raise the weekly childcare voucher cap from £55 to £75 per week to help parents save more on the cost of their childcare.  Raising the cap will increase savings per parent to over £1200 per year.  If you want to save more sign the Busy Bees e-petition to help persuade the government to increase the cap.

For more information please visit www.busybeesbenefits.com

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Take Advantage of Tax Breaks on Cost of Independent Schools


It is a common perception that childcare vouchers are only used by middle income families to pay for nursery fees. In fact, childcare vouchers are available to almost all working parents* and can be used for older children to pay for a wide range of needs which are classed as “childcare”. Independent schools** may accept vouchers to pay fees for children aged 0 up to and including reception year. Beyond reception level, childcare vouchers can be used to pay for non-educational care and activities such as day trips and summer camps.

Childcare vouchers can provide significant savings no matter what rate of income tax a parent pays. Whilst a basic rate taxpayer can currently save up to £933 per year, a working parent paying 40% tax can save £624 per year and an additional rate taxpayer (50%), £605. If both parents work and take advantage of the maximum amount of childcare vouchers, these savings can be doubled.

Childcare vouchers are a simple, government-backed scheme offered via the employer. Parents can join a scheme to exchange part of their salary for childcare vouchers.  Savings are made as vouchers are non-taxable and National Insurance exempt.

Another benefit of childcare vouchers is that they are flexible. You do not have to use childcare vouchers in the week or month they are provided and you can save them up to use later. So, for example, you can start saving at the start of the tax year to pay for activities at the school your child will be attending in the autumn, or to pay for activities and care provided over the summer months. You will need to approach your child’s school to ask whether they accept payment with childcare vouchers and for which activities.

Childcare Voucher provider, Busy Bees Benefits is actively campaigning to increase thevalue of childcare vouchers for parents. The savings available have not changed since 2006, although fees for all forms of childcare have continued to rise.  Busy Bees’ ‘Mind the Gap – Raise the Cap’ campaign aims to persuade the government to increase the maximum weekly limit on how much salary a parent can sacrifice in exchange for childcare vouchers to a maximum of £75 per week to keep pace with rising costs.

The e-petition at the centre of the campaign already has over 12,000 signatures. The aim is to achieve an increase in the cap as part of the 2013 Budget.

For more information about the campaign visit www.busybeesbenefits.com.  

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Government Urged To Make Changes To Childcare Voucher System

Recent news headlines have been focusing heavily on childcare costs as they are currently one of the top burdens on UK families.  Childcare costs can take up to half of a parent’s salary and fees have continued to rise, with an increase of 6% in the last year alone1.  With the announcement from Prime Minister, David Cameron on the creation of a new government commission to look into childcare, the childcare sector are calling for changes to be made to the current system.

Childcare voucher provider, Busy Bees Benefits and the CVPA (Childcare Voucher Providers Association), with the support of other childcare organisations, are running campaigns to persuade the government to change the way the childcare voucher system works to make childcare costs more affordable for all working parents.  The current system is only available to those working parents employed by an organisation and the maximum an employee can choose to exchange, via salary sacrifice, is £55 per week.

Busy Bees Benefits ‘Mind the Gap – Raise the Cap’ campaign aims to increase the current childcare voucher cap from £55 to £75* to make childcare more affordable for working parents.  The current cap allowance has not changed since 2006 even though childcare costs have continued to rise.  Raising the cap to £75 will increase savings parents can make from £933 per year to over £1200 per parent.  As part of the Busy Bees Group, the UK’s largest childcare provider, Busy Bees Benefits understand the need for parents to provide affordable, quality childcare for their children.  A recent report2 has found that 20% of its respondents have turned down jobs and 38% have considered quitting their current job because they couldn’t afford to pay for childcare.  The campaign aims to bridge the gap between current voucher values and the increasing cost of childcare to help parents continue to work and afford childcare.

At the centre of the ‘Mind the Gap – Raise the Cap’ campaign is an e-petition which requires 100,000 signatures for the issue to be eligible for debate in the House of Commons.  This can be found at http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/31669.  Political backing for the campaign is important to make the government aware of the issue, Busy Bees have produced a downloadable letter on the campaign page on their website which can be simply amended and printed off for supporters to send to their local MP which will help to raising the awareness that working parents need more support.  Busy Bees Group CEO, John Woodward said:

“It is imperative that parents are able to work and still afford the childcare they need.  We want to make a difference to families, raising the childcare voucher cap will provide parents with additional savings giving them more to spend on their childcare costs.  If both parents in a household join a childcare voucher scheme they could potentially save over £2400 per year on the cost of their childcare if the campaign is successful.”

Together with other childcare organisations the CVPA are calling for the government to extend the availability of childcare vouchers to the self-employed.  The campaign which has the backing of CVPA members including Busy Bees Benefits, wants the government to provide an equal level of support to all working parents, regardless of whether they are employed or self-employed. 

As the government wants 2012 to be “the year of Enterprise” the CVPA campaign feels to achieve this they need to encourage more female entrepreneurs.  Entrepreneurship among women is low as only 26% of self-employed people are women3.  If the self-employed were able to use childcare vouchers more women would be able to start a business, giving them both the flexibility of working and family life with the added support of being able to afford childcare.  Visit the CVPA website to register your support for the campaign.

Both the Busy Bees Benefits campaign to raise the childcare voucher cap to increase the savings parents can make and the campaign to extend vouchers to the self-employed complement each other and strive for a fairer, more supportive childcare voucher system.
For more information about childcare vouchers and the Busy Bees campaign visit www.busybeesbenefits.com

Notes
1 - Daycare Trust’s Annual Childcare costs survey 2012
*Basic rate tax payers, based on individual circumstances.