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.

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

The benefits of baby massage

Relaxation is really important for mum, dad and baby and using baby massage techniques is one way you can promote this, while also being a chance for some quality bonding time together. According to the International Association of Infant Massage (IAIM), the benefits of baby massage include helping the long-term emotional health of a child, the development of body awareness and coordination, reducing post-natal depression and improving mother/baby relationships.

There are also lots of other benefits, from helping circulation, digestive and nervous systems, to stimulating growth hormones. It can also help manage and relieve the symptoms of teething, colic and colds.

And it’s not just for mums – dads may find introducing a regular massage routine helps them feel closer to baby, especially if they are spending time away at work.

So what is it?

Baby massage involves the gentle and rhythmic stroking of a baby, generally moving from the legs to the arms, hands and body. It can also include the gentle manipulation of joints, such as fingers and ankles. It is done with the hands and you may choose to use baby moisturiser or similar to help your hands glide smoothly.

What do parents say

Before I had my own children I taught the IAIM technique of baby massage to new parents. Along with all the other positive outcomes it is a great tool to enable parent and baby to communicate, by taking time out from a busy day to concentrate on what he or she is trying to tell you.

Babies are born ready and very willing to communicate as a survival skill, but signs can get lost or misinterpreted. Dads can also often feel at a loss when mum is breast feeding, so this gives them a specific task and makes them able to ‘do’ something.

In my own family the massage time has had importance with each successive child, as protected one-to-one time with each specific child. We have adapted the moves as they have got older and they also do it to each other now, which is lovely.

Want to find out more

Check out what baby massage clinics are taking place in your area. A good place to start is to contact your doctor’s office or to ask your health visitor.

Guest blog provided by Beverley Squire, a health visitor and mother of three from Devon

A tall tale for one little bookworm!

Earlier this year we launched a special ‘Let’s Get Kids Reading’ campaign, designed to help parents motivate and inspire their children to read.

We had a fantastic response from families, especially to a competition we ran on our interactive Facebook page.

Hundreds of parents entered and one little bookworm from Hampshire is now going to be kept very busy, after receiving a special delivery of his height in books!

5-year-old Jake was delighted when the pile of over 200 children’s books arrived, after mum Jeni Wareing was named the winner of our competition.

The precious cargo of books was personally delivered to Jake by CVS Sales Director Iain Williamson and team member Lucy Osbaldeston, who coordinated the campaign.

Jake was delighted with his prize and mum Jeni remarked: “They should keep him going for a while! Jake just loves reading and now our only problem is going to be choosing which book to read next!”

From astronomy and pirates to Roald Dahl classics, The Gruffalo and even Spider Man, when stacked up the diverse pile of reading books reaches just over a metre in height.

Congratulations Jake and well done Jeni! And don’t worry, if you weren’t the lucky winner this time around remember to keep checking our Facebook page, as we’ll be running another competition soon.

If you haven’t visited us on Facebook yet, we’d love you to stop by and say hello. You’ll find us here: www.facebook.com/computersharevoucherservices

An award for Vicki as pupils benefit from ‘reading buddy’ scheme

An employee at Computershare has been honoured with a special award in recognition of her dedication and efforts in helping local primary school children improve their reading skills. Vicki has been managing our Computershare Reading Buddy scheme, which sees employees volunteering to visit local primary schools for half an hour each week to listen to pupils reading.

Since becoming the reading buddy coordinator in 2010, Vicki has taken the scheme from strength to strength and has helped to more than triple the number of volunteers taking part.

The reading buddy initiative is part of a series of structured volunteering opportunities run by a charity called Ablaze. Last year over 800 volunteers donated more than 21,000 hours, impacting over 4,500 young people and helping to motivate children to develop an enjoyment of reading independently.

Ablaze has been so impressed by Vicki’s efforts that they have honoured her with a special award, which she received at a recent ceremony attended by charity representatives, volunteers, business leaders and young people from across the region.

“I think the buddy scheme is a fantastic project and I was delighted to get involved with it,” said Vicki. “The feedback from volunteers and the schools is amazing and we hope to grow our bank of volunteers even further this year, so we can help even more pupils with their reading.”

Here are some of the fantastic comments we have received from the schools:

Miss Emma Drew, head teacher at Fairfurlong Primary School, said: “Well done Vicki! We have always been really pleased with the support provided for us by the Computershare volunteers.  Most of the children we select for support are children who are below the correct levels for their age.

“Through the support of Computershare volunteers, the children learn the importance of practising their reading with an adult, get some "special" time with an adult that is about them, and make progress with their reading. Just 30 minutes a week does have a massive impact for the children at our school.”

Mark Lacey, head teacher at Parson Street Primary School, said: “We really value our partnership with Computershare. We are working hard with our whole school community to raise standards of literacy for our children and the fact that a local business like Computershare is willing to work with us in this endeavour is fantastic. We are so pleased to welcome volunteers here every week - they really make a difference!”

Tony Halloran, head teacher at St Pius X Primary School, said: “The contribution of Computershare reading volunteers to our school is invaluable. They help us to support children who would not normally read with an adult who is not a member of school staff. The children have built strong working relationships and friendship with 'their' volunteer (and they really are possessive about volunteers) and they are really appreciative of the time that is given.  Without the volunteers some of our children would not share or build a love of reading. Long may they come forward.”

Well done to Vicki and all our volunteers!

How Honeypot can help… Loredana’s story

Honeypot is a fantastic charity that provides respite holidays and on-going outreach support to young carers and children at risk. The charity supports around 1000 children every year, all aged between 5 – 12 years. At a recent Honeypot event an inspiring lady called Loredana read out her story in her own words:

‘My name is Loredana and I consider myself to be one of the luckiest children in the world.. No I never got the chance to go to Disneyland, no I didn't get a Barbie Dream House, or get tickets to see the Spice Girls in concert... I got to go to a house. Not just any house, a house with surrounded by fields, with a family  dining table covered with plaid cloth, a fireplace, a pool, a shed full of mountain bikes, a craft shed with all the glitter a girl could dream of, a living room with a video player and bean bags... And that was just the beginning...

Before I continue down the path of awesome Honeypot nostalgia, a bit about me. I'm the 3rd of 5 kids. I grew up in a refuge and a hostel respectively, escaping domestic violence. My mother who is disabled and couldn't work, struggled to give us what we as kids wanted toys, CDs, a pony those kinds of things. Me and my brother, who came to Honeypot with me, spent a lot of our time helping our mum with chores and shopping, as her disability hindered her from doing a lot of those things without our help.

In 1998 we joined a young carers club, to give us a break from things going on at home. We got to visit and do many things we couldn't do with our mum because of financial reasons - going to the farm, cinemas, pizza hut, the little things. It was late in 98 we were told we were going to Honeypot... I didn't know what it was but anything to get me out of the house I was excited for.

We'd never seen the country, it was like a dream. The hills, the tiny houses and the cows! Lots of them... We were told we were getting nearer... We drove over a cattle grill and up a winding path and in the distance a little house stood. I couldn't believe my eyes! Little old me from a one room hostel, going to a mansion! I couldn't believe it! We all pressed our noses against the window and was greeted by the lady all Honeypot kids know and remember as THE best - Claire.

Those few days were full of lots of things, many wonderful first experiences - seeing the ocean, baking a cake in the kitchen, sitting round the table eating spaghetti hoops,  watching George of the jungle and having hot chocolate. It's those things that children crave. The simple things.

Honeypot provides a "home" for children who may not find that in the real world. It provides respite to the kids who work 24hrs a day caring for a family member, most of all it provides a safe environment where kids can be just that.

As a child I struggled with the real world - no money, no luxuries, and so made up stories, sang and entertained myself, and thankfully there was always a Honeypot staff member who would listen to my singing, or answer my many random questions... To this day I still love trivia.

My point is that Honeypot has affected me in such a way that I'm always drawn back, I'm always retelling my stories from my time at Honeypot. I still have the cards and the presents they'd send on every birthday and Christmas. No matter what was going on in my life, where I moved, Honeypot never forgot about me. They never forget a child.

Personally I think that a lot of people fail to realise that children experience in their childhood is what makes them as an adult, everyone of you in audience are how you are because of a person who interacted with you, a friend, in my case - a charity who gave up their time to give me some normalcy in my childhood.

After revisiting Honeypot house back in 2006 I knew what I wanted to be  - I wanted to work with kids, and be someone that they would remember when they're all grown up. I've worked in the U.S for four years with children at a summer camp for the privileged and underprivileged alike. I applied to volunteer at the house this summer and I'm now studying to be a primary teacher and thank Honeypot for being the driving forces in making that decision.

Please support this charity because without them, I wouldn't be half as amazing as I am today. You have the power to help change a child's life!’

CVS are continuing to work in partnership with this fantastic charity. For more information on Honeypot, please visit the website to find out more.

These words and opinions are those of the writer and not necessarily those of Computershare Voucher Services