The government plans to extended its childcare voucher scheme to new parents on leave and to parents who are also carers, in response to complaints that the current plans discriminate against stay-at-home parents.
The measures, originally announced in March, will see families with two working parents or a working single parent receiving voucher payments equal 20 per cent of their childcare costs (up to a maximum of £6,000) from 2015.
Commentators criticised the government for excluding mothers and fathers who do not go out to work.
Marie Peacock of campaign group Mothers At Home Matter accused the Prime Minister of “alienating mothers across Britain.”
Neil Leitch of the Pre-School Learning Alliance, meanwhile, said:
“To offer this money to a couple whose dual earnings could reach £300,000 but not to a couple earning a fraction of this amount who choose to have one parent stay at home seems perverse. This seems to be more about dangling a £1,200 carrot to tempt mums back to work rather than providing real childcare choices.”
But the government insisted that the scheme was designed to cut the costs of childcare, which can a significant burden on families.
Chancellor George Osborne said:
“This government is on the side of people who want to work hard and get on in life. Tax-free childcare will help working parents by giving them more choice and better access to the quality, affordable childcare they need.”
The extension, to carers parents on paternity or maternity leave, comes at start of a 12-week consultation on the plans, which will include feedback from parents. Reports suggests that this move may be intended to placate pressure groups who were involved opposition to previous plans, such as a now abandoned scheme to increase the ratio f children to nursery workers.
The Chancellor explained:
“We want to make the new scheme work in the way that is best for parents, so today we are asking for their views, and I’d like as many parents as possible to tell us what they think.”
The childcare scheme will be phased in from the autumn of 2015. In its initial stage, it will be focused on families with children under the age of five.