Childcare vouchers will stay open to new starters for an extra six months after the Education Secretary announced a delay in scrapping the scheme.
Labour used a parliamentary procedure to push for a debate on proposed changes to childcare vouchers, free school meals and free childcare for two year olds from disadvantaged families.
After an intervention from a DUP MP, Education Secretary Damian Hinds said he was delaying implementing the changes to childcare vouchers by six months.
The Government originally planned to end the vouchers scheme for new starters from April. Those who apply before the closing date will still be able to claim the vouchers, which allow employees to claim back tax on their pay to cover part of their childcare costs.
The reason for the change is the government’s introduction of tax-free childcare which it says will reach more employees than vouchers. However, research shows some parents will be better off with vouchers – particularly those where both parents are eligible for vouchers. Tax-free childcare means parents can claim back up to 20% of childcare costs up to a ceiling of two thousand pounds a year per child.
Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Pre-school Learning Alliance, said: “Given the significant difficulties parents trying to access tax-free childcare online continue to face, delaying the closure of childcare voucher schemes to new entrants is clearly a sensible decision by government.
“With take-up of tax-free childcare still much lower than originally expected and valid concerns continuing to be raised about the level of support the scheme offers to lower-income families, we would suggest that government uses this time to reflect on the effectiveness of the tax-free childcare policy and whether the scheme alone is the best way to provide adequate support to all families who need it.”