Workingmums.co.uk poll on tax-free childcare shows a significant number of parents don’t know about it, while others can’t use it.
The majority of mums taking part in a Workingmums.co.uk poll say tax-free childcare has not helped cut their childcare bills.
Tax-free childcare came in last year and enables eligible parents to get up to £500 every three months (£2,000 a year) for each of their children under 12 to help with the costs of Ofsted-registered childcare. Parents have to pay up front and claim back the money. To be eligible, parents [both parents if parents are living together] have to be in work, with each earning at least £120 a week and not more than £100,000 each per year.
The poll shows 31% say they can’t use tax-free childcare and 24% have not even heard of it.
However, 16% of mums says tax-free childcare has significantly cut their childcare bills. Twenty nine per cent say it has partially cut their bills.
Among those who said they can’t use tax-free childcare was one mum who said the government’s other childcare policy – providing 30 free hours of childcare to eligible three and four year olds – halved the spaces her childcare provider was able to offer.
Tax-free childcare has proved controversial due to a series of technical glitches.
A report last month showed HMRC had received 4,560 complaints from parents who have experienced technical issues with the childcare service as of 31 October 2018.
In February, the Government said it had received 3,496 complaints as of 22 December 2017, but said it had made significant improvements to the service. A survey by Workingmums.co.uk last year showed many parents struggling with registering on the website when it was first launched.
The recent figures come shortly after a recent technical glitch resulted in 22,000 childcare fee payments made to early years providers being delayed. HMRC says it has now fixed this glitch. Nursery World reported recently that just 7 per cent of eligible families are using Tax-Free Childcare and that there was a £600m underspend on the scheme.
The 30 hours scheme for three and four year olds has proven more successful. Government figures out today show the number of children in a 30 hours place is equal to 94% of the eligibility codes issued to parents for the autumn term, up on 90% last term and the same time last year. However, the policy has attracted criticism due to claims that the government is not covering the full costs, meaning providers have to raise the money elsewhere – a recent survey showed over half of parents accessing 30 hours said they had to pay charges for additional items or activities – or face financial problems.
A report published this week showed 44% of local authorities who replied to a questionnaire had experienced difficulties over the last year in implementing free hours for disadvantaged two year olds. Some 38 per cent said that the introduction of the 30 hours funded early education entitlements for three and four year olds of eligible working parents had caused difficulties for the implementation of the disadvantaged two year old offer.