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Forty per cent of parents say they have not been helped by new UK policies on childcare and 28% don’t even know about them, according to a Workingmums.co.uk poll.
Only 8% of those questioned said the policies had helped them and 23% said they didn’t apply to them.
The new policies include a scheme to allow parents of some three and four year olds to access 30 free hours of nursery.
Those eligible are families where both parents, or one parent in lone parent families, earn above an average of £120 per week (the equivalent to 16 hours per week at National Living Wage), but less than £100,000 per year.
The other main childcare policy introduced by the Government last year is tax-free childcare – a system whereby parents of children under 12 [or under 18 if their child is disabled] pay upfront into an online childcare account and claim back up to 20% of the cost from the Government. It will eventually replace childcare vouchers when these are phased out for new joiners later this year. The Government argues that it enables more children to access tax rebates on their childcare than childcare voucher schemes, which many employers do not run.
Critics of the 30 hours policy say it is not properly funded and that some childcare providers can therefore not afford to offer it or are having to charge for extras like food or increase charges for younger children. They also claim that many may have to limit places in the future or may be forced to close as a result. Figures show significant regional variation with regard to take-up, although the majority of eligible parents are accessing free places.
Workingmums.co.uk surveys have found a mixed response to the 30 hours policy. Of those who can access it, many are very happy with the support, although several have to pay for extras and some cannot access all 30 hours at their local childcare provider.
Many parents find tax-free childcare difficult to negotiate and had encountered problems registering for it.
*Parents can register for both new policies on the Government’s site.