A balancing act for families with National Work-Life Week

Families are at the heart of what we do at CVS, so we’re delighted to continue in our support of Working Families, a charity which works with parents, carers and employers to find a better balance between responsibilities at home and work. The charity’s annual awareness campaign, National Work-Life Week, will this year be running from 24-28 September, with firms across the UK encouraged to get involved.

Finding a balance between family life and work life is something most families will face.

Introducing a childcare voucher scheme, along with other family friendly initiatives such as flexi working, are just some of the options employers can look at to support team members in this situation.

In the current economic climate, it can be especially difficult for small and medium sized businesses to reward staff, when pay rises and bonuses are just not an option. Family-friendly policies and working arrangements are one way they can do this.

Childcare vouchers benefit working parents as they are non-taxable and national insurance exempt, meaning parents can potentially save up to £1,866 a year.

Employers will also save on their national insurance payments by operating a scheme, with potential savings of up to £402 per year for each employee who joins.

In the case of flexible working, benefits can be seen for both employers and employees alike. It is a way for employers to engage and develop a happier more productive workforce, especially in the case of busy parents who will be able to more easily meet their commitments at work and at home.

For more details about National Work-Life Week 2012 visit www.workingfamilies.org.uk.

Kids back to school? Don’t forget your childcare vouchers!

It's time for families to get back into the school routine, as children across England head to the classroom for the start of a new term. But many parents, especially if it is the first year a child is heading to ‘big’ school, may be unaware that they could be putting their childcare vouchers towards the cost of a range of education-related care.

What parents often tell us is that they are surprised that childcare vouchers can be used for a wide range of care - more than just nursery care!

Childcare vouchers can be put towards a number of different activities and used for children up to the age of 16.*

When it comes to education-related care, then provided certain criteria are met, along with breakfast and after school clubs vouchers may even be used for activities as diverse as music lessons and sports clubs.

If you are planning to make use of any of the following, make sure you ask if they accept childcare vouchers to ensure you’re making the most of your vouchers.

  • Breakfast clubs
  • After school clubs
  • Music lessons
  • Sports clubs

Check you’re getting the most from your childcare vouchers and the savings they can bring by heading to our website, or get in touch with us through Facebook.

* 1st September following 15th birthday or 1st September following 16th birthday for children who are registered disabled.


Do you use your childcare vouchers for summer fun?

With the school holidays soon to begin in Scotland and in the rest of the UK shortly after, we thought we would quiz parents on how you are planning to make the most of childcare voucher savings during the summer break. Thank you so much to everyone who took part in the poll, which we ran on our Facebook page. It made for interesting reading…

  • 39% of those who voted said you would be putting your childcare vouchers towards the cost of traditional childcare, such as nursery and childminders
  • While 18% of you plan to use your vouchers for local holiday clubs
  • Just 6% will be using childcare vouchers for residential adventure holidays, such as PGL or King Camps
  • And only 4% of you plan to use your vouchers for special activity sessions, such as Mad Science

But the main statistic that got us thinking is that 33% of you answered that you didn’t realise you could use vouchers outside of ‘normal’, more traditional childcare.

Childcare vouchers uses

It is a commonly held myth that childcare vouchers can only be used for very young children and for nursery care. But the good news is that they can actually be used for a wide range of registered childcare - and for children up to the age of 16 years old!* Karen, who has a one year old daughter, plans to continue using vouchers after her daughter has left nursery: “I use childcare vouchers to pay my nursery and wasn’t aware of all the other types of childcare I could use them for. When my daughter gets older I’ll definitely continue using them wherever I can.”

Childcare vouchers are incredibly versatile, but many parents do not realise you can use them towards the cost of a range of activities for the kids, including holiday camps, activity clubs and even some theatre and music lessons.

Vouchers can even be used for popular adventure holidays run by regional and national organisations, such as PGL and Camp Beaumont! We spoke to Jill who has an 11 year old daughter, who told us she carries on using her vouchers over the summer holidays: “I use my childcare vouchers to pay for my daughter's PGL summer camp, so I don't need to take as much annual leave and I can still afford to take her on other day trips like to the safari park, as she loves seeing the animals."

So to help and inspire you, we have created a special Holiday Activities page on Facebook http://cpu.vg/XGc1X where you’ll find an interactive map and a list of organisations that operate activities during the summer months.

And our top tip - if you’re starting to plan in some summer activities, then make sure you ask if vouchers are accepted, so you can start making the most of the savings.

Remember you will find lots more information about childcare vouchers on our website www.computersharevoucherservices.com, and if you have any questions you can always send us an email to parent@computershare.co.uk or give the team a call on 0845 002 1111 (8am-8pm, Monday to Friday).

*1st September following 15th birthday or 1st September following 16th birthday for children who are registered disabled.

Government makes moves to tackle childcare costs

Good news for parents - more help could soon be on the way for families to help them manage the spiralling cost of childcare. Prime Minister David Cameron has recently announced that he intends to set up a new commission that will focus on childcare and work with parents and providers to try and find ways to make childcare more affordable.

As well as looking at ways to reduce the cost of childcare, the commission will look for inspiration from international childcare models and also consider ways to increase places and “wrap-around care” for children over-five, during holidays and out-of-school hours.

The Daycare Trust has revealed in its annual ‘Childcare costs survey 2012’ that working parents are now paying, on average, £15,000 per year for childcare - more than a third of their income - and with little financial help.

According to the Trust, the high cost of childcare is forcing many parents to consider sacrificing work in order to care for their children, whilst living off national benefits.

Here at CVS we think the introduction of the commission is a very positive step by the Government. There is an obvious need to balance the need for quality childcare with affordability and it will be interesting to see what conclusions the commission arrives at.

Times are very tough for many UK families, especially in the current climate and it’s great that the Government is starting to address some of these issues.

We have long been campaigning for addition support to be made available for working parents, such as by increasing the tax-free limits on childcare vouchers in line with increasing childcare costs or by making the vouchers scheme available to the self-employed, so they too can benefit from the savings.

We hope that these measures may now be seriously considered, as they could make a huge difference for so many parents.

If you’re a parent or childcare provider and would like more information about childcare vouchers, then you can find more details on our website www.computersharevoucherservices.com or on our interactive Facebook page www.facebook.com/computersharevoucherservices.

Families seek out charity shop treasures

It appears thrifty parents may be saving their pennies by heading to the local charity shop in search of those hidden treasures. In an interesting article appearing in the Daily Telegraph it’s been revealed that with budgets squeezed for many, a quarter of families may now be turning to charity shops for items such as clothing and toys.

The story centres on a recent survey of parents, which has shown one in five are buying birthday gifts for other children from charity, while nearly a quarter plan to buy their Christmas gifts from a charity shop this year.

While it may not be every family’s cup of tea, giving a new home to a pre-loved or unwanted item can be an affordable way to find a bargain, while at the same time giving money to a good cause.

As the cost of living continues to rise, putting increasing pressure on family budgets, cutting costs in innovative ways such as this will no doubt remain a top priority for many parents.

Indeed, we hear from parents who are being affected by escalating costs and for whom the savings they receive through their childcare vouchers are vital.

Whether putting them towards the cost of nursery care, breakfast and after school clubs, au pairs or any other kind of registered childcare, the savings can prove essential for families.

We think this story may hit a nerve with many parents and so we’d love to hear your thoughts on it. If you have any other great cost-saving tips or ideas of your own, then we’d also love to hear them.

You can also check you’re getting the most from your childcare vouchers, the savings they can bring and more details about what they can be used for on our website.

Government considers new ways to reduce childcare costs

There's positive news for parents, as it’s revealed that the Government is looking into new ways it can help make childcare more affordable. Prime Minister David Cameron has given a strong indication that tax breaks may be offered to families who hire nannies or childminders, reportedly saying he is ‘hugely attracted’ to the idea and finds it ‘odd’ that the current tax system doesn’t offer help to mothers who want to return to work.

One initiative thought to be being considered is a ‘maid credit’ scheme, currently used in Finland and Sweden. Under the scheme, domestic helpers such as nannies and babysitters can claim back tax credits before then invoicing the family for the remainder.

It is thought a system like this could help ease some of the financial pressures faced by families by saving them thousands of pounds each year, while also encouraging them to formalise payment arrangements.

While firm plans are yet to be made, overall it’s great to hear that the government is focusing on and considering different ways to make it easier for parents to be able to afford childcare.

Elizabeth Truss MP is backing initiatives to deregulate childminders, as one of the options to decrease childcare costs for working families. She proposes a system whereby local agencies monitor, supervise and inspect childminders and nannies, and it is these agencies which are regulated by Ofsted.

Here at CVS, we strongly back parents and would welcome any additional support being made available when it comes to ever increasing childcare costs. We would, however, add that any new initiative must always be dependent upon there being no reduction in quality or the standards of childcare.