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. 

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