Half term is almost here and although this is one of the shorter of the school holidays, many parents find the week an expensive time. If parents are unable to take time off work, they may need to access childcare, activity clubs or out of school activities for their children.
School holidays can be an opportunity for children to experience new activities. Allowing children to attend activity clubs and holiday schemes will help them to engage with new people, take part in events and develop new skills. The sticking point, however, can be the cost.
Working parents can use childcare vouchers to help pay for such activities. Although the majority of parents use childcare vouchers to pay for registered childcare for pre-school children, such as nurseries, nannies, au pairs or childminders, the vouchers can also be used for older children to pay for things like out of school clubs and activity camps. Parents should always check before booking that the provider accepts payment with childcare vouchers.
How can parents access childcare vouchers and how do they work?
1. Childcare vouchers are available to working parents via their employer. Childcare vouchers are a benefit, not a right, and so parents must ask their employer to provide them. The scheme will not be a cost to the employer and could save them around £400 per year per employee on the scheme.
2. If the employer agrees to provide childcare vouchers, parents simply register to the scheme, telling their employer how much they would like to deduct from their wages each week or month in return for the vouchers.
3. Parents can currently exchange up to £243 per month, depending on individual circumstances.
4. The amount exchanged for vouchers is deducted from the employee’s wages and no tax and National Insurance is taken. Parents then pay their childcare provider with the vouchers. Through taking childcare vouchers, parents can save up to £933 per year on the cost of their childcare.
5. Childcare vouchers can be used to pay any registered childcare provider for children up to the age of 16.
Can parents save more?
Busy Bees Benefits is campaigning to raise the weekly childcare voucher allowance 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 e-petition to help persuade the government to increase the cap. The e-petition currently has over 17,000 signatures and closes on 21st March 2013.