15/30 hours and childcare vouchers – getting around the glitch

We’re aware from the number of parents getting in touch with us, and from comments on one of our recent Facebook posts, that the process for applying - and reconfirming your eligibility – for the government’s 30 hours free childcare scheme is not clear.

The root of the problem seems to be that 30 hours free childcare shares the same application process as the government’s Tax-Free Childcare (TFC) initiative. One of the rules for using TFC is that you can’t use childcare vouchers at the same time. Whilst that rule doesn’t apply for 15/30 hours, the application process doesn’t appear to take that fact into account.

Thankfully, parents have been sharing the advice they’ve been given by the HMRC helpline to work around this system glitch.

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And to confirm:

You CAN apply for the 15/30 hours of free childcare and continue to receive your childcare vouchers.

You DO NOT have to apply for Tax-Free Childcare (TFC) to get the 15/30 hours of free childcare.

We’ve reported these issues to HMRC via the Childcare Voucher Providers Association (CVPA). They’ve said they will issue a fix to the system shortly.

 

More useful reading

We’ve also written a couple of other blogs on 15/30 hours free childcare:

›      How to apply for 15/30 hours free childcare

›      30 hours free childcare – reconfirming your eligibility every 3 months 

Top Tip 1

Don’t forget – you can use your childcare vouchers to pay for any childminder/nursery costs over-and-above your 15/30 hours of free childcare.

Top Tip 2

If you don’t need childcare vouchers whilst in receipt of 15/30 hours free childcare, don’t forget, you may want to use them again when your child starts school (for before and after school clubs in term time, and holiday clubs and activity camps in the school holidays). So you need to make sure you receive at least one childcare voucher in every rolling 12-month period to remain on your employer’s scheme.

'Win Your Child's Height in Books' is back!

It's the moment you've all been waiting for…yes! In celebration of #WorldBookDay we're offering you the chance to WIN your child's height in books!

Now in its seventh year, the competition gives you the chance to win a big stack of books for your child, from the tip of their toes to the top of their head – up to a massive 5”9!

Here’s how to enter!

To be in with a chance of winning, you'll have to...

1. Guess the missing word from the title of the book we post

2. Comment with your answer and use the hashtag #missingword

3. We'll pick a winner at random and tag them!

Keep an eye out for our competition posts throughout this month! The competition closes on 31 March and we’ll be drawing a winner 3 April.

To go to our Facebook page and get guessing, click here.

To read the terms and conditions of the competition, click here.

Good luck!

How to keep your eligibility for childcare vouchers after April 2018

On 6 April 2018, childcare vouchers will close to new entrants forever. After that date, if you haven’t received a voucher within the last rolling 12-month period, you'll become ineligible for childcare vouchers and the government's Tax-Free Childcare (TFC) scheme will be your only option.

While TFC will make some families better off, analysis shows that most will be better off with childcare vouchers, tax credits, or a combination of the two. TFC also has a lot of eligibility criteria, meaning you may not qualify for it. For more information about TFC visit www.giveyourselfachoice.com.

To remain eligible for childcare vouchers you need to receive at least one voucher in every rolling 12 month period – with Computershare the minimum order is £20.

There are a number of reasons you might want to ‘pause’ your order, and in this blog post we take a look at ways you can remain eligible for childcare vouchers for each scenario.

You're using 15/30 hours free childcare

If you’re in England and currently making use of the 15/30 hours of free childcare, or about to apply, don’t forget you can use your childcare vouchers to pay for any additional childminder or nursery costs over-and-above your free entitlement

Check out our two blogs for more information on 15/30 hours free childcare:

› How to apply for 15/30 hours free childcare

› 30 hours free childcare - reconfirming your eligibility

You're on maternity/paternity leave

To remain eligible for childcare vouchers whilst on maternity/paternity leave, you need to receive a voucher in every rolling 12-month period:

› If you’re on an enhanced maternity/paternity leave package, there may be sufficient funds to continue paying for the childcare vouchers from your salary.

› If you’re on Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP), many employers will continue to pay for your childcare vouchers - you’re not allowed to salary sacrifice your SMP for a childcare voucher. But some employers’ scheme rules may ask you to stop your order.

› If your employer requires you to stop your vouchers, and you’re planning on taking 12-months maternity/paternity leave, this may mean you become ineligible for childcare vouchers as more than 12 months will pass between your last order and when you return to work. A possible way around this is to ask your employer if they’re willing to fund a childcare voucher as part of a ‘keep in touch’ day during your maternity/paternity leave. This can be for the minimum amount - with Computershare it’s £20.

Check out our maternity/paternity leave blog for more information

Your child is at school

Don’t forget you can use childcare vouchers in a number of childcare settings and for children up to 15 years old (or 16 if registered disabled).*

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Always ask your childcare provider if they accept childcare vouchers.

*1 September following the child's 15th birthday or 1 September following their 16th birthday if they're registered disabled.

Your carer isn't registered

If your carer isn’t registered for childcare vouchers, you’re currently missing out on up to £933 and tax and NI savings (or £1,866 if both working parents use childcare vouchers). Give us their contact details – name & address - and we’ll get them set up for you.

To get started, email carer@computershare.co.uk

You're taking a payment 'holiday'

If you’ve built up a balance on your childcare account and are currently taking a payment ‘holiday’, you just need to ensure you take a voucher at least once every 12-months to ensure you remain eligible for childcare vouchers. This can be a one-off childcare voucher for the minimum amount – with Computershare it’s £20.

You're not currently using registered childcare

If you aren’t using registered childcare currently, but will again in the future, you need to receive at least one childcare voucher in every rolling 12-month period. This can be for the minimum amount – with Computershare it’s £20.

› You move jobs (your new employer won’t be able to accept new joiners on to their scheme from 6 April 2018)

› It’s more than 12 months since your last childcare voucher order

› You become self-employed or unemployed

› Your youngest child reaches the age of 15

However, your partner (if you have one) may still be eligible for childcare vouchers providing they’re registered on their employer’s scheme before 6 April 2018.

All you need to know about Tax-Free Childcare (TFC)

We’ve been updating you on Tax-Free Childcare (TFC) for the past few months.

From 24 November 2017, parents whose youngest child is under 6 (or who has their 6th birthday on that day) can apply for TFC through the government's Childcare Choices website.

Over the coming months TFC will open to parents of older children (up to 12 years old only) and government has also promised to make further improvements to the online application system, which has seen some issues.

To help parents understand everything there is to know about TFC, we’ve created a dedicated website, Give Yourself a Choice with lots of information and tools:

Video – TFC: What’s it all about?

Decision Tree – TFC vs. childcare vouchers

Parent interviews

o Are you a couple where one of you works and the other doesn’t?

o Both in work with high childcare costs?

o Not using childcare vouchers at the moment?

o Do you and your partner both pay Basic rate tax?

o Do you have a child with a disability?

o Are you or your partner self-employers?

o Do you work part-time?

o Single parent relying heavily on childcare?

› FAQs

› Fact Sheet

For more information about childcare vouchers visit www.computersharevoucherservices.com

Christmas opening hours

On behalf of everyone at Computershare, we'd like to wish you a very merry Christmas.

Our customer service team will be available to answer your childcare voucher queries at the following times over the festive period:

Friday 22 December 8.00am - 6.30pm

Monday 25 December Closed

Tuesday 26 December Closed

Wednesday 27 December 9.00am – 4.00pm

Thursday 28 December 9.00am – 4.00pm

Friday 29 December 9.00am – 4.00pm

Monday 1 January Closed

Tuesday 2 January 8.00am - 6.30pm

Clarity on the Government’s response to the Childcare Voucher petition

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It has been said that Tax-Free Childcare (TFC) is fairer and better targeted than vouchers, but this doesn’t take into account that families would lose all support under TFC if one parent was not in work for any reason—this could be an unexpected job loss or having to stop working to look after an elderly relative. With childcare vouchers, the family would still receive support where they wouldn’t with TFC via the other working parent. If the childcare vouchers scheme closes to new entrants as planned, then even existing users would lose access if they ever changed employer.

The average family will be able to claim more support with childcare vouchers. TFC is often said to offer £2,000 of support, but this is based on a family spending a total of £10,000 a year on childcare, with £8,000 out of their own pocket. Most families cannot afford this. In fact, according to the Government’s figures, the average family spends £3,276 on childcare each year. This family would only receive up to £655 of support under TFC but could receive up to £1,866 with childcare vouchers.

It is also important to acknowledge that anyone who claimed TFC would lose access to any other working tax credits and universal credit, and these other benefits would still be available to a family using childcare vouchers.

It is also sometimes claimed that TFC is “fairer” to single parents, but single parent households could still be worse off with TFC. A basic rate taxpayer single parent would have to spend over £4,665 on childcare to be better off with TFC than with childcare vouchers. It is precisely instances like this that shows us the importance of keeping both schemes open.

People sometimes think childcare vouchers has restricted access, but the fact that you are receiving this email means that you are probably one of the well over 20 million employees of the 31 million in this country that can access vouchers. This includes everyone who works for any public sector body and any large employer. And this number is growing by the day. Even with the threat of closure over 1,000 new small and medium sized businesses sign up to join the childcare voucher scheme every month.

Hopefully you’ll be able to see why we think it is so important that we keep childcare vouchers open.