Be wary of shiny new childcare benefits

While the headline, “New £1 billion childcare scheme for UK families” (your report, 19 March), is at first sight welcome, as always, the devil is in the detail.

Therefore, we discover that this is in effect a tax break which will not benefit very low income families and that it will be 30 months before any family gets help with childcare costs through this scheme. Scrapping the current childcare voucher scheme to pay for it means that families who now can claim childcare vouchers for out-of-school childcare for their five-year-olds and older may in effect be having their current subsidies taken away to fund costs for under-fives, under this scheme.

While tax relief does little to help low income families, the upper limit on earnings is £300,000. This looks to us like the wrong balance in terms of supporting the 
majority of families in this country who earn nothing like that amount.

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In the meantime, already 10 per cent has been cut from childcare tax credits for very low income families and there is no clear information on how the “universal 
credit” will help them at all with childcare costs, so 
essential to help parents stay 
employed in the workplace.

While of course we welcome any measures to help with childcare costs it does seem that parents needing help with extra costs right now for under-fives will not 
get it.

Then when their child is five, they will discover that the childcare vouchers (that they may have had) are scrapped and they are not eligible for the new scheme, which might take so long to be phased for primary school children that their child will have left primary school and then, being 12 or over, will still not be eligible.

We do hope that there will be a proper consultation by the UK Government on this matter, as surely it doesn’t want to take away existing support for childcare costs, without at least replacing or improving on it.

Irene Audain MBE

Scottish Out of School Care Network

Wellington Street