A number of people have been in touch with me recently regarding the planned closure of the existing childcare vouchers scheme for new entrants from April 2018. I share concerns over the transition to the Government's new system of tax-free childcare and I am particularly worried about those families where only one parent is working, who will unfairly miss out.
It is very worrying that the Childcare Voucher Providers Association (CVPA) has suggested that only 7% of the parents expected to sign up to tax-free childcare by April 2018 will have done so. The CPVA notes that this is particularly alarming given the plans to close access to childcare vouchers, which risks hundreds of thousands of parents being left with no childcare support at all.
The Government has acknowledged that applications for tax-free childcare accounts have been lower than expected. However, it believes that the new scheme is fairer and better targeted than vouchers.
I strongly support investment in childcare and at the 2017 General Election I stood on a manifesto which committed to overhaul the existing childcare system in which subsidies are given directly to parents who often struggle to use them, and transition to a system of high-quality childcare places in mixed environments with direct Government subsidy.
It also pledged to phase in subsidised provision on top of free-hour entitlements, to ensure everyone has access to affordable childcare, no matter their working pattern. The manifesto further committed to extend 30 free hours to all two-year-olds, and move towards making some childcare available for one-year-olds and extending maternity pay to 12 months.
I am aware that over 112,000 people have signed the petition to keep childcare vouchers open beyond 2018 alongside tax-free childcare. Therefore, I am pleased that parliament will be given the opportunity to debate these issues on 15 January.
I believe that the Government should recognise the contribution made by ordinary working families to the economy, society and Government finances by not removing this crucial support.