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.

What skills should your child ideally have when starting school?

Starting school is a big event for the whole family, when your little one becomes a little bit more independent. 

Whilst nurseries and childminders do a lot of work with ‘rising 5s’, there’s also plenty you can do to help ensure your child has the necessary skills for their first day at school. 

Take a look at the questions below. If you can answer ‘yes’ to most of the questions and ‘sometimes’ for the rest, your child should do just fine!

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Our Christmas card competition winners revealed...and the best of the rest!

When we launched the ‘CVS Design a Christmas Card’ competition we knew we would be in for a treat…but we had no idea how hard it was going to be to choose our winners!

A massive thank you to everyone who took the time to enter. We received hundreds of entries, all of an incredibly high standard and it is clear a lot of time and effort has gone into the designs.

It was a really tough decision for our panel of judges, which included Richard Cooper from children’s charity Honeypot and Sarah Jackson from the organisationWorking Families, but we finally managed to select one winner for each of the three age groups.

A design featuring two angels cleverly made from handprints saw talented toddler Elissa, aged 4, take the prize for the 0-5 years old category.  Elissa loves art and as well as designing a card for CVS she has also been busy working away making Christmas cards for all her family.

 Elissa with her picture

Elissa with her picture

Young artist Ellis, age 8, took the top spot in the 6-10 years age group. He impressed the judges with his clever and intricate design for a Christmas card featuring a festive tree. Ellis hopes to become an architect one day and according to mum Sara, is always drawing something!

 Ellis with his picture

Ellis with his picture

Finally, in the 11-16 years category, teenager Natasha’s wintery design was crowned the winner. Her image of a snowman and an ice skating fairy really grabbed the judge’s attention with its festive spirit.

 Natasha with her picture

Natasha with her picture

For each of our three winners Christmas has come early as they have each received £150 worth of arts and crafts supplies. Their winning designs are also being enjoyed by thousands of people, as they have become our official Christmas e-cards, going out to employers, carers and parents registered with CVS.

For the judges, it was a very difficult task, as Richard Cooper from Honeypot explains: “I was very impressed with the high standard of artwork on display across the age groups. This made it a very difficult (but enjoyable!) task of choosing the winning entries for each category. The winners demonstrated fine skill and interpretation of the festive message and are very deserving of their prize. Well done to all the budding artists who entered, you did yourselves proud!”

Sarah Jackson from Working Families added: “The rain lashing down outside when the judges met was in huge contrast to the warmth and joy of the Christmas images the children had sent in.  This was one of the hardest things I have been asked to do!  There were so many wonderful ideas from all ages and a wealth of colour and imagination.  Somehow we managed to agree on the winners, whose designs sum up so well what Christmas means.”

To view the three winning designs and to see some of the brilliant entries we received, take a look at our facebook album!

Childcare vouchers may help parents manage benefits change

Parents who are high-earners may be able to reduce the potential loss to their child benefit by making the most of salary sacrifice schemes such as childcare vouchers. Featured in a number of national newspapers in recent days, accountants and tax experts have re-enforced how using the childcare voucher scheme could help certain parents manage the effects of planned changes to the child benefit system.

From 7 January 2013 changes to the benefit system will see families where at least one partner earns £50,000 or more having their child benefit reduced, while those earning £60,000 or more will lose the benefit all together.

As the benefit is calculated on taxable rather than gross income, increasing pension contributions and making the most of salary sacrifice schemes such as childcare vouchers may help to reduce the level of taxable pay.

For some working parents, making the most of childcare voucher schemes could impact on the threshold they fall into and thereby increase the amount of child benefit to which they are entitled.

If you are a working parent and would like more information about childcare vouchers, then please visit our website or call the CVS team on 0845 002 1111.

 

The information and opinions expressed within this blog are for information purposes only. They are not intended to constitute legal, taxation or other professional advice, and should not be relied on or treated as a substitute for specific advice relevant to particular circumstances.

Think tank warns it doesn’t pay to work

A report by a leading think tank has warned that 'extortionate' childcare costs could mean some parents are actually left worse off going to work than they would be staying at home. The report, produced by the Centre for Social Justice, has warned that the Government must tackle the high cost of childcare or it will fail to make it economically worthwhile for parents in low paid jobs to be in work.  In some cases, it may even work out cheaper for the Government if certain parents remain at home.

The think tank looked at the situation parents are facing, including the planned introduction of a Universal Credit scheme. The scheme is part of a major overhaul of the benefits system and will aim to simplify the way the system works.

The think tank has concluded that even under the new scheme, parents in low income jobs with more than two children could be worse off working.

However, on reading this report, it has come to light that the think tank has not considered factors such as the free early years entitlement, which provides for 15 hours free childcare a week for all three and four year olds (for 38 weeks a year), so that a parent working 20 hours a week would only have to fund the additional five hours childcare (of which 70% would be subsidised under Universal Credit).

Whilst the robustness of the report may be questioned, it does demonstrate that childcare continues to be a highly topical issue for the Government and one that they are being called upon to address, including areas such as the amount of red tape faced by childcare providers. It is thought that this will help reduce costs that have to be passed on to parents.

At CVS, we fully support working parents and the need for quality childcare provision at an affordable cost. As this report suggests, reducing red tape is one way to do this. We have also made other recommendations to the Government’s Childcare Commission, including suggestions to remove the restriction around the National Minimum Wage  and for changes to the way wrap-around care is provided (perhaps with a relaxation of ratios for care outside of the core nursery hours) and we will keep you updated with any news on this.

Childcare vouchers can help many parents, particularly when you consider that basic rate tax payers can claim vouchers up to the value of £243 a month, so working parents can make potential savings of £933 per parent a year on childcare costs.

Around half a million working parents currently rely on childcare vouchers each month to meet their childcare costs, with the vast majority of these being basic rate tax-payers.  We fervently hope that the Government continues to provide this greatly needed subsidy to normal working parents, who aren’t all higher earners, as the report by the Centre for Social Justice wrongly suggests.

We will continue to lobby the Government with our fellow Childcare Voucher Providers Association members, to ensure that the needs of all working parents are considered and that childcare costs are made more affordable, without reducing the quality of the childcare they receive.

CVS makes a sporty delivery!

It has been an amazing year for sport in the UK, creating a fantastic opportunity for families to get more active and try out new things together. To mark the occasion, at CVS we launched our very own ‘Summer of Sport’ campaign and we’ve been overwhelmed by the positive response it has received.

As part of the campaign we have been running a special competition on our Facebook page, giving families the chance to win £250 worth of sporting equipment (enough to keep even the most active child entertained for some time!).

We’re delighted to announce that we now have our lucky winners.

In the under-3s category it was water baby Florence from Long Eaton in Nottingham.

CVS sales director Iain Williamson dropped by to deliver the huge pile of toys and equipment, which was an early birthday present for the toddler who will be two at the end of October.

Mum Kate opted for the swimming-related prize package after saying how much Florence loves the water and enjoys her weekly water baby class. She has even more reason to want to stay in the pool now, after receiving everything from a ride-on whale toy, to a pool noodle, swim jacket and socks, poncho and special UV suit.

The Batchelor family from Rugby were the lucky recipients of the prize in the 3-16 years old category.

Joe, aged 7, and Katie, aged 6, watched excitedly as their prize arrived, containing everything from a football to a swing ball set, a bike, pogo stick, racket and balls, and a scooter. We just couldn’t hold them back from getting stuck in to all the toys straight away.

Thanks to everyone who entered and remember to check back in with our Facebook page regularly for more fun competitions, play ideas, inspiration and information. www.facebook.com/computersharevoucherservices